Fine Ceramics for New Space
In the recent years, the space industry has opened up with new players entering a hitherto government organization dominated domain. This disruption sparked many new ideas and pushed the industry forward. A few of the relevant materials Kyocera contributes in this context are introduced, showing how the company paves the way for New Space.
With the fast growth of companies working in the New Space, new requirements create challenges for the existing materials and supply chains in this industry. With upcoming innovations requiring compact designs with improved functionalities, production of highly complex and precise designs will drive the development towards the next generation of satellites, propulsion systems, and other aerospace components and systems. Furthermore, the burgeoning number of satellites and systems bring forth concepts like reusability of launchers, modular designs with high diversification and the dismantlability of complete systems or assemblies. Such features bring new material property requirements into sight - like thermal shock acceptance, mechanical strengths, erosion, to name a few.
Ceramics with their unique properties have proven advantages in harsh environments. Compared to other material classes, the superior properties of ceramic materials in high electrical isolation, chemical resistance, wear resistance, and mechanical strength are of importance.
Applications in New Space
The next generation of telescopic mirrors need strong, lighweight, low (near zero) thermal expansion materials to further advance the detection and imaging limits. Cordierite fits this requirement well, not only for the mirror parts, but also the structural parts holding the mirrors in place. With the entire body of the telescope made of one low thermal expansion material like cordierite, one can expect to maximize the stability of the construction and thereby increase the efficiency of the optical instruments and telescopes. The cordierite parts can also be coated with metals if needed.
The silicon carbide (SiC) material system provides outstanding properties regarding strength, hardness, chemical resistivity amongst others. It is a 100% gas and water tight material that can be fused in the final furnace step to produce a homogeneous monolithic part with hidden openings for cooling channels, protected sensors, or material supplies. The material is, in contrast to almost all ceramics, electrically conductive and thus allows the production of fine detailed and precise features, while exhibiting excellent strength and stiffness. In combination with the very high thermal conductivity, this also allows the integration of cooling fins into a satellite structure, frame or other body. Applications for this material include high speed or other kind of mirrors with flat or curved surfaces with embedded cooling or heating capabilities; all sizes of frames, fixtures, structural components that can combine thermal control capabilities with high stiffness and rigidity.
Progressively more ceramics with their outstanding properties and capabilities will be supporting applications in aerospace in the future. Especially with the new requirements in terms of weight to rigidity or electrical and thermal properties in “new space”, ceramics will be replacing metal or glass components.