The space environment raises many challenges for new materials development and ground characterization. These environmental hazards in space include solar radiation, energetic particles, vacuum, micrometeoroids and debris, and space plasma. In low Earth orbits, there is also a significant concentration of highly reactive atomic oxygen (AO). This Progress Report focuses on the development of space-durable polyimide (PI)-based materials and nanocomposites and their testing under simulated space environment. Commercial PIs suffer from AO-induced erosion and surface electric charging. Modified PIs and PI-based nanocomposites are developed and tested to resist degradation in space. The durability of PIs in AO is successfully increased by addition of polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane. Conductive materials are prepared based on composites of PI and either carbon nanotube (CNT) sheets or 3D-graphene structures. 3D PI structures, which can expand PI space applications, made by either additive manufacturing (AM) or thermoforming, are presented. The selection of AM-processable engineering polymers in general, and PIs in particular, is relatively limited. Here, innovative preliminary results of a PI-based material processed by the PolyJet technology are presented.
- additive manufacturing
- space environment