Composites in the race to space – CompositesWorld

Composites in the race to space – CompositesWorld

aerospace, NASA

CW photo


Scott Francis

July 20, 2019 marked the 50-year anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing. Though, at the time the Apollo capsule was built, the composites industry was still in its infancy and the materials were not yet in widespread use, the Apollo capsule used early composite technology in the form of an ablative heat shield made from Avcoat, an epoxy novolac resin with silica fibers in a fiberglass-phenolic honeycomb matrix. A fiberglass honeycomb was bonded to the primary structure and the paste-like material was injected into each cell individually. Since Apollo, advanced composites have evolved by leaps and bounds, and have played a significant role in space programs with use in launch vehicles, the space shuttle, satellites, space telescopes and the International Space Station.

Today, the human race finds itself poised for some exciting new steps into space exploration. The current administration has called for a return to the moon by U.S. astronauts by 2024 and has announced a 2021 budget of more than $25 billion for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA, Washington, D.C., U.S.) human space exploration program. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine says the budget is “one of the strongest budgets in NASA history.”