The proposed project utilizes the unique capabilities of the Materials International Space Station Experiment-Flight Facility (MISSE-FF) platform to perform low-Earth orbit (LEO) materials validation testing to advance the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of advanced spacesuit hard upper torso (HUT) composite materials developed under a prior NASA SBIR Phase I/current Phase II contract. The developed, high-performance composites consist of a hybrid structure that combines traditional composite prepregs with “smart”, energy-absorbing, shear-thickening fluids (STF) to create advanced hybrid composite materials with significantly improved impact resistance and damage tolerance. The proposed work consists of: i) Validation, using the MISSE-FF platform, of the STF hybrid composite materials’ performance in the LEO environment. ii) Exploration of other fabric/resin matrix combinations including thermoset and/or thermoplastic-based prepregs to use in combination with the STF technology, with a view towards characterizing the LEO environmental effects on emerging composite materials with potential spacesuit, vehicle, and habitat applications. iii) Adding the gained knowledge to the Materials and Processes Technical Information System (MAPTIS) database. The payload could also be adapted for future lunar environmental testing. The project will leverage the current participation and experience of the investigators conducting MISSE-9/-10 experiments together with expertise in STF hybrid composites developed on the associated SBIR Phase I and Phase II awards in order to validate the new impact-resistant, damage-tolerant composite materials in the relevant space environment support future crewed exploration efforts, including Deep Space Gateway and subsequent lunar and Martian missions.
The primary target market for the proposed SEAL-composites innovation to be validated by the proposed research is in the composite portions of advanced xEMU and mEMU suits for future surface exploration missions. The improved durability at reduced weight of the SEAL-composites is useful for increasing the reliability of other composite structures and applications including storage tanks, habitats, solar array substrates, or surface exploration vehicle components.
The growing market for advanced composites represents a substantial opportunity for SEAL-composites. Applications: 1. Automotive - fuel economy and electric vehicles. 2. Personal Protective Equipment, especially for first responders 3. Storage tanks for water, chemical, oil and gas industries 4. Aerospace 5. Consumer sporting goods 6. Power generation (wind) 7. Construction materials 8. Marine