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PhD Student Develops Spinning Heat Shield for Future Spacecraft

10 Aug 2018, 18:55 UTC
PhD Student Develops Spinning Heat Shield for Future Spacecraft
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A University of Manchester PhD student has developed a prototype flexible heat shield for spacecraft that could reduce the cost of space travel and even aid future space missions to Mars.Heat shields are essentially used as the brakes to stop spacecraft burning up and crashing on entry and re-entry into a planet’s atmosphere. This design is the first in the world to utilize centrifugal forces that stiffen lightweight materials to prevent burn-up.Current spacecraft heat shield methods include huge inflatables and mechanically deployed structures that are often heavy and complicated to use.Rui Wu, from Manchester’s School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, says as well as being lightweight in design is prototype is also “self-regulating”. This means there is no need for any additional machinery, reducing the weight of spacecraft even further and allowing for low-cost scientific research and recovery of rocket parts.He says: “Spacecraft for future missions must be larger and heavier than ever before, meaning that heat shields will become increasingly too large to manage.”To address this demand Wu and his team have developed a flexible heat shield that is shaped like a skirt and spins like a sycamore seed. Planets with atmospheres, such as Earth and Mars, allow ...

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