. 24/7 Space News .
Natural fibres threaded into satellites for safer missions
by Staff Writers
Paris (ESA) Oct 14, 2020

This flax-containing biocomposite satellite panel is a test version of a lateral structural panel for the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite - which aboard the actual mission has been made from aluminium.

A natural fibre that once wrapped early Egyptian mummies and was worn by Roman aristocrats has found a space-age purpose. Threading fibres from the flax plant through satellite panel material can help space missions burn up more rapidly during atmospheric reentry - making their disposal safer for people and property on the ground.

ESA's detailed testing of this natural-fibre composite has helped it find wider terrestrial uses in turn, including inside McLaren Racing's Formula 1 cars.

Fibres from the flax plant, cultivated in Europe since the Stone Age, are weaved to make linen. An ESA project with Swiss companies Bcomp and RUAG looked into substituting them for carbon fibres, which are employed to make leading composite material 'carbon fibre reinforced plastic' (CFRP).

A strong yet light material, CFRP resembles reinforced concrete, where steel bars are added to a concrete mix in order to strengthen it. In a parallel manner, carbon fibres are mixed with epoxy resin to achieve a higher strength-to-weight ratio and rigidity. The resulting composite is used widely in satellite manufacturing, as well as the high-performance automotive and maritime sectors.

"The idea behind this Bio-Composite Structure in Space Applications project was to investigate the use of natural fibres in place of their carbon equivalents," explains ESA structural engineer Tiziana Cardone.

"There are two main reasons why: firstly to reduce the environmental impacts of space manufacturing, which is one of the main goals of ESA's Clean Space initiative. Our detailed Life Cycle Analysis shows this can cut carbon dioxide emissions by up to 75% compared to matching carbon fibre parts.

"In addition, in another link to Clean Space, we've been seeking out novel materials that can 'demise' more easily, meaning they can burn up more rapidly and completely during atmospheric reentry. This has been driven in turn by the requirements of Europe's space debris mitigation policy, requiring a less than 1 in 10 000 risk to people or property when satellites are disposed of at their end of life."

The project, led by ESA's Structures section and supported through the Agency's General Support Technology Programme, involved examining the flax fibres in terms of the highly demanding requirements of spaceflight.

"We found that they have exceptionally low thermal expansion - which is good in terms of the temperature extremes of orbital space - as well as high specific stiffness, and strength which can be retained right down to cryogenic temperatures," says ESA materials and processes specialist Ugo Lafont. "They are also able damp down vibration well, can endure ultraviolet radiation exposure and impede radio signals much less than carbon fibres."

The project team took Bcomp's patented thin-shell 'powerRib' natural-fibre composites as their starting point, using them to make a test version of a lateral structural panel for the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite - which in the case of the actual mission was made from aluminium.

"These panels are designed as 'targeted demisable points' for the satellite, intended to break up early to allow heat fluxes into the satellite interior earlier than would otherwise be the case," adds Tommaso Ghidini. Heading ESA's Structures, Mechanisms and Materials Division.

"The next step was to put these remade panels to the test in as realistic manner as possible, using a plasma wind tunnel at the Institute of Space Systems, IRS in Stuttgart, Germany. The IRS worked with ESA's Materials section to develop the demisability test procedure."

The resulting baptism of fire showed a positive result compared to traditional CFRP: while carbon fibre strands tend to endure in place while their surrounding matrix is burnt away, the flax fibres ablate apart much more rapidly.

The project's detailed characterisation of Bcomp's natural fibre composite also led to it finding new terrestrial customers: Sweden's Volta Trucks firm is using the composite for weight-saving and more environmentally friendly body panels.

McLaren Racing meanwhile has collaborated with Bcomp to manufacture Formula 1's first natural fibre composite racing seat. Possessing improved vibration-damping properties to a traditional CFRP seat, the new material also offers wider safety possibilities -carbon fibres are notorious for splintering during accidents, puncturing wheels and potentially injuring drivers.

"We're a small team, and working with ESA has taught us a lot," adds Regis Voillat of Bcomp, "which we've been able to apply in turn to a lot of our other projects. So this collaboration has supported the spread of sustainable technologies to other sectors as well."

Related Links
Space Engineering and Technology at ESA
Space Technology News - Applications and Research

Thanks for being there;
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 Monthly Supporter
$5+ Billed Monthly

paypal only
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal

Kongsberg awarded contract for mobile communication satellite
Kongsberg, Norway (SPX) Oct 05, 2020
The equipment is to be integrated in Airbus Defence and Space's new mobile communication satellite, Thuraya 4-NGS. The agreement includes manufacturing and test of electronics from Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace, division Space and Surveillance in Horten, Norway. The satellite will deliver higher capabilities and flexibility while increasing capacity and coverage across Europe, Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East. The new generation of modular digital processors from Airbus Defence and Space ... read more

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Homemade space food for Matthias Maurer

ISS crew fails to resolve air leak issue in Russia's Zvezda Module with adhesive tape

Abort and attitude control motors to support six crewed Artemis missions

NASA advances plan to commercialize International Space Station

Blue Origin launches, lands NASA moon landing sensor experiment

ISRO's human space flight rocket to have multiple backups for crucial systems

NASA, SpaceX Crew-1 Launch Update

Accion Systems to demonstrate its propulsion system in NanoAvionics US rideshare mission

NASA's Perseverance Rover Will Peer Beneath Mars' Surface

China's Mars probe completes deep-space maneuver

NASA, JAXA to Send Sampling Technology to Moon and Phobos

Mars at its biggest and brightest until 2035

China's Xichang launch center to carry out 10 missions by end of March

Eighteen new astronauts chosen for China's space station mission

NASA chief warns Congress about Chinese space station

China's new carrier rocket available for public view

Iridium says consumers staying connected when off-the-Grid during COVID-19 pandemic

Space agency leaders call for greater international cooperation

RBC Signals to Host Swarm Antennas Supporting Global Connectivity Constellation

Startups eye rocket and satellite markets

Kongsberg awarded contract for mobile communication satellite

On the trail of causes of radiation events during space flight

Ultrasensitive microwave detector developed

NASA, space industry seek new ways to cope with space debris

Vaporized metal in the air of an exoplanet

Massive stars are factories for ingredients to life

New research explores how super flares affect planets' habitability

Some planets may be better for life than Earth

Arrokoth: Flattening of a snowman

SwRI study describes discovery of close binary trans-Neptunian object

JPL meets unique challenge, delivers radar hardware for Jupiter Mission

Astronomers characterize Uranian moons using new imaging analysis

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - 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. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.