Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

NASA Tests New Insulation for SLS Rocket
by Kim Henry for MSFC News
Huntsville AL (SPX) Sep 07, 2016

Amy Buck, SLS core stage insight lead at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, holds up a sample of foam that recently went through testing in Marshall's Hot Gas Facility. The facility is used for development and qualification of material systems for use on launch vehicles, like NASA's Space Launch System. These foam panels were tested to determine recession characteristics of the foam during the ascent phase of flight. The surface of the foam reaches more than 500 degrees Fahrenheit as it undergoes a hot gas flow at speeds of up to Mach 4 to simulate the environment during launch. NASA engineers then take the samples and measure how much foam is lost during the test to characterize the materials for use in the launch vehicle design and analysis. Image courtesy NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given. For a larger version of this image please go here.

You may not think about insulation much, but it's one of those unsung industry heroes that keeps our drinks cold and homes warm on those bone-chilling winter days. Insulation also is a key component to protecting NASA's Space Launch System and its super-cold fuels for the journey to Mars.

Different types of cryogenic foam - used for very low temperatures - will insulate the rocket's core stage and launch vehicle stage adapter, which connects the core stage to the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS). The core stage is the backbone of the rocket, and houses the avionics system, propellant and RS-25 engines. On the first flight of SLS with the Orion spacecraft, called Exploration Mission-1, the ICPS will give the Orion the big push needed to fly beyond the moon before the spacecraft returns to Earth.

The rocket's fuel is comprised of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Liquid hydrogen is cooled to -423 degrees Fahrenheit, and the liquid oxygen is cooled to -297 degrees Fahrenheit. Insulation protects the outside of the core stage from ice build-up resulting from the subzero propellants inside the aluminum walls. Insulation also reduces heat flow to the propellants, hardware and flight systems during launch and atmospheric re-entry.

So, what kind of insulation materials can measure up for the world's most powerful rocket? Engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, are peeling back the layers to find out.

"NASA has developed new, more environmentally friendly insulation materials for future launch vehicles," said Michael Frazier, nonmetallic materials branch chief at the Marshall Center. "The cryoinsulation materials for SLS are not only more environmentally compliant, but they are also just as efficient and lightweight as the previous generation of materials."

Three types of foam have been developed and are being tested for SLS. The foams are all closed-cell materials, which means they are stronger and have greater resistance to heat flow and moisture. They also are non-ozone-depleting and flame resistant.

The different types of insulation are applied by varying methods: automatically by a robot; manually using a hand-held spray system; and hand mixed for pouring into molds. "With some parts of the rocket being so massive, like the core stage, robotic applications help reduce time and manpower with more control and continuous sprays," said Amy Buck, SLS core stage insight lead. The thickness of the insulation varies depending on the hardware, but it is typically about one inch.

Hundreds of 24-by-24-inch panels have been covered with the three types of foam for a variety of tests, which are being conducted by NASA and prime contractor Boeing, headquartered in Chicago, to qualify the insulation for the challenging environments SLS will experience before and during flight. Tests range from density measurements to exposing the foams to heating environments similar to those the SLS will see during ascent.

Qualification testing of all the foam systems is anticipated to be completed later this year. At that point, the materials will be ready to use on Exploration Mission-1 in late 2018. "There are some follow-on aging tests that we will run over the next few years, but those are just being done to ensure we don't have any problems with long-term storage of the cured-foam products," Frazier said.

So the next time you reach for a drink inside your cooler or shed the cold of winter in your home, think about another type of insulator that will be headed to deep space.

The initial SLS configuration, known as Block 1, will have a minimum 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capability. The next planned upgrade of SLS, Block 1B, will use a more powerful exploration upper stage for more ambitious missions with a 105-metric-ton (115-ton) lift capacity. Block 2 will add a pair of advanced solid or liquid propellant boosters to provide a 130-metric-ton (143-ton) lift capacity. In each configuration, SLS will continue to use the same core stage and four RS-25 engines.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Space Launch System
Rocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Specialized Transporters Move Core Stage of NASA's Space Launch System Rocket
Huntsville AL (SPX) Sep 01, 2016
Any fitness expert will say it is important to take care of your body's core. Any engineer will say the same about rockets. Before NASA's Space Launch System - the most powerful rocket in the world - can exercise its core "muscles" and climb off the launch pad, its core stage and test articles have to be moved to various NASA centers for testing, assembly with other components and eventual ... read more

Space tourists eye $150mln Soyuz lunar flyby

Roscosmos to spend $7.5Mln studying issues of manned lunar missions

Lockheed Martin, NASA Ink Deal for SkyFire Infrared Lunar Discovery Satellite

As dry as the moon

Anomalous grooves on Martian moon Phobos explained by impacts

NASA Approves 2018 Launch of Mars InSight Mission

Storm Reduces Available Solar Energy on Opportunity

Test for damp ground at Mars' seasonal streaks finds none

The Deep Space Network

At Berlin tech fair, waterproof gadgets make a splash

Grandpa astronaut breaks US space record

35 years later Voyager's legacy continues at Saturn

Tiangong 2 is coming soon, real soon

China's newly-launched quantum communication satellite in good shape

China Sends Country's Largest Carrier Rocket to Launch Base

'Heavenly Palace': China to Launch Two Manned Space Missions This Fall

US astronauts complete spacewalk for ISS maintenance

Space Station's orbit adjusted Wednesday

Astronauts Relaxing Before Pair of Spaceships Leave

'New port of call' installed at space station

Vega's multi-satellite payload integration begins for Arianespace Flight VV07

Launch pad blast destroys SpaceX rocket, Facebook satellite

India To Launch 5 Satellites In September

Sky Muster II comes to French Guiana for launch on Ariane 5

Discovery one-ups Tatooine, finds twin stars hosting three giant exoplanets

New light on the complex nature of 'hot Jupiter' atmospheres

Could Proxima Centauri b Really Be Habitable

Rocky planet found orbiting habitable zone of nearest star

3D skulls from Henry VIII's doomed warship placed online

Mega tech fair IFA dives head-first into virtual reality

New plastic clothing material could keep people cool

Northrop Grumman gets $375 million G/ATOR radar contract

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement