Majority of smaller satellites don’t survive through the violent process of atmospheric re-entry. But, ESA believes that using cork for nose will help it survive through the extremities
Fremont, CA: European Space Agency (ESA) is planning to test a different kind of spacecraft partially made from cork, hoping to find a safer way to re-enter the atmosphere.
The vessel, called ‘QubeSat for Aerothermodynamic Research and Measurements on Ablation,’ is made up of a series of cubes heaped on top of each other and around a foot long. The main shaft is made of titanium coated with silicon carbide.
According to a blog post on ESA’s website, the satellite is powered by four thin solar panel strips that stretch out behind it like a shuttlecock.
On December 5th, QubeSat reached the ISS as a part of the cargo carried by SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, and recently it has been launched on an orbit that will have the capsule re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere within six months. Engeeniers designed QubeSat with a cork nose to help it survive while descending on Earth’s atmosphere.
Most smaller satellites don’t survive through the violent process of atmospheric re-entry. A satellite the size of the QubeSat is likely to blast apart in temperatures that can exceed several thousand degrees Celsius. But, ESA believes that using cork for nose will help it survive through the extremities.
The ESA highlights that the cork is a custom mix built by Amorim, a Portuguese company that specializes in the material’s industrial uses.
The ESA engineers hope that the nose made of specially designed cork of QubeSat will keep the satellite in one piece by carrying the unwanted heat away from the main vessel, with materials first swelling and then burn off absorbing the heat. After that, the charred cork will chip away while leaving the main vessel unharmed. This process is called ablation. This approach has been used to help the larger capsule re-enter atmosphere but has rarely been used with a smaller capsule as QubeSat.
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