HRL Laboratories is developing new ultra-lightweight materials for future aerospace vehicles and structures under NASA’s Game Changing Development Program. These new materials can enable NASA to reduce the mass of spacecraft for deep space exploration by 40 percent and are necessary for the journey to Mars and beyond.
Led by Dr. Tobias Schaedler, HRL’s team will develop lighter and stronger cores with innovative truss architectures that will be combined with carbon fiber composite facesheets. The HRL approach combines ultra-stiff and ultra-strong materials (such as nanocrystalline metals) that provide higher strength than conventional materials with highly optimized truss architectures that enable unprecedented degrees of freedom to tailor the mechanical performance.
Composite sandwich structures are a special type of material made by attaching two thin skins to a lightweight core. Traditional composite sandwich structures incorporate either honeycomb or foam cores. This type of composite is used extensively within the aerospace industry and in other applications making it possible for future journeys to Mars. The ULW materials being developed by NASA vary significantly from traditional cores and are expected to result in a significant decrease in mass.
NASA Phase I awards are valued up to $550,000, providing awardees with funding for 13 months to produce 12-by-12-by 1-inch ULW core panels. Technologies selected to continue to Phase II will demonstrate the ability to scale up to 2-feet by 2-feet by 1-inch and ultimately to produce 10-feet by 11-feet by 1-inch ULW core panels, with NASA providing up to $2 million per award for up to 18 months.
The three awards selected for contract negotiations are:
* HRL Laboratories LLC of Malibu, California: Ultralight Micro-truss Cores for Space Launch Systems
* ATK Space Systems LLC of Magna, Utah: Game Changing Technology Development Program Ultra-Light Weight Core Materials for Efficient Load Bearing Composite Sandwich Structures
* Dynetics Inc. of Huntsville, Alabama: Ultra-Lightweight Core Materials for Efficient Load-Bearing Composite Sandwich Structures