08:01 GMT29 November 2020
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    The North American Space Agency has selected three proposals from American companies for the development of ultra-lightweight (ULW) materials to reduce the overall weight of its spacecraft, allowing the agency to conserve fuel and carry more payload - and people - on its ventures further and further into space.

    "Lightweight and multifunctional materials and structures are one of NASA's top focus areas capable of having the greatest impact on future NASA missions in human and robotic exploration," said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. 

    "These advanced technologies are necessary for us to be able to launch stronger, yet lighter, spacecraft and components as we look to explore an asteroid and eventually Mars."

    The proposals come from Malibu, California-based HRL Laboratories LLC., which proposed ultralight micro-truss cores for space launch systems; ATK Space Systems of Magna, Utah, whose “Game Changing Technology Development Program” has Ultra-Light Weight Core Materials for Efficient Load Bearing Composite Sandwich Structures; and Dynetics, Inc., of Huntsville, Alabama, which proposed the use of “Ultra-Lightweight Core Materials for Efficient Load-Bearing Composite Sandwich Structures.”

    All three companies employ the “composite sandwich structure,” a special type of material made by affixing two thin skins to a lightweight core. “Traditional” sandwich structures primarily incorporate honeycomb or foam cores. The aerospace industry has used these structures in the past, and the ones in development now will presumably be stronger and more durable to endure trips to Mars and beyond.

    The three companies will receive around $550,000 for thirteen months, and those selected to continue will receive $2 million for up to eighteen months each. 


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