NASA Looking to Tiny Technology for Big Payoffs

A demonstration flight article is wound with carbon nanotube composites. (Credits: NASA)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — NASA is advancing technology that could use large amounts of nanoscale materials to launch lighter rockets and spacecraft than ever before. The Super-lightweight Aerospace Composites (SAC) project seeks to scale up the manufacturing and use of high-strength carbon nanotube composite materials.

Carbon nanotubes consist of carbon atoms chemically bound in the shape of cylinders that are less than 1/80,000 the diameter of human hair. At that scale, carbon nanotubes are about 100 times stronger than steel and about eight times lighter.

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NASA Awards Contract for Continued Development of Carbon Nanotube Technology

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded a contract to Nanocomp Technologies Inc. of Merrimack, New Hampshire, for the continued development of high strength carbon nanotube (CNT) material.

The firm-fixed-price contract allows for the continued improvement of manufacturing high-strength CNT yarn/tape for use in developing CNT composites with strength properties at least double that of carbon fiber composites in use today. The contract also provides for studying commercialization objectives for CNT material as well as expanding manufacturing capabilities to lower production costs of high strength CNT yarn.

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Nanotechnology Flight Test: Material Impact on the Future

A Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket with the SubTec-7 payload launches frm NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on May 16, 2017. (Credit: NASA Wallops)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — Mastering the intricacies of controlling matter at the nanoscale level is part of a revolutionary quest to apply nanotechnology to benefit industrial processes. A key element of that technology is the use of carbon nanotubes.

Carbon nanotubes are small hollow tubes with diameters of 0.7 to 50 nanometers and lengths generally in the tens of microns. While ultra-small, carbon nanotubes offer big-time attributes.

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Carbon Nanotube Breakthrough to Enable Space Elevators, Skyhooks

Via RLV and Space Transport News:

Industrial Scale Production of Cambridge Carbon Nanotube Tethers Will Enable Hypersonic Skyhooks and Better Moon and Mars Space Elevators
Next Big Future

There was a NASA study of hypersonic skyhooks that determined the best designs and the strength of materials needed. No show-stoppers were uncovered. However, the elements of the concept require further development and refinement and then actual implementation programs. They have to build and test hardware to make the engineering work reliably.

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