Mechanical Properties and Durability Study of Aerogel-Base Thermal Insulation for Advanced Space Suit 2003-01-2446
Fiber-reinforced Aerogel composite insulations provide superior thermal insulation protection in both the low-earth orbit (LEO) and near-earth neighborhood planetary environments. The flexible nature and thermal properties of these materials make them the best insulation candidates for advanced space suit application. This paper reviews the properties of various Aerogel composite materials developed for NASA by Aspen Systems, Inc. Previous studies showed that the Aerogel materials retained acceptable thermal performance after some amount of mechanical cycling. The goal of the current work is to reach a complete understanding of the mechanical properties of these materials in the domain of space suit application. Hence, a good knowledge of the durability of the aerogel composites is needed. This paper presents the extensive testing program needed to determine the life of these insulations for advanced space suit application. In particular, this test program focuses on evaluating the change of thermal conductivity as a function of the degree of mechanical cycling. The changes in chemical formulation are also evaluated in terms of materials overall thermal and mechanical performance. Initial test results are presented.