University launches new materials to the International Space Station

Researchers from The University of Manchester have developed new, “aerodynamic” materials, which have been sent to the International Space Station (ISS) for testing.

The materials were carried to the ISS from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, in a science carrier from Alpha Space Test & Research Alliance of Houston, Texas, on-board a Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply vehicle which launched on 2 November.

Now deployed on the exterior of the ISS, the materials will be exposed to the harsh LEO (Low Earth Orbit) environment, to investigate their erosion properties. After six months, they will be returned to Earth for analysis, where it is hoped they will be used in a new generation of very-low-orbit satellites.

The experiments form part of the DISCOVERER project, a Horizon 2020 project on which the University is the lead partner. DISCOVERER is developing technologies to enable the commercially viable operation of satellites in very low Earth orbits, below an altitude of around 450 km, where drag from the residual atmosphere has a significant impact on spacecraft design.

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