Author Topic: ULA complete design for in-space inflatable sun shield on Atlas V  (Read 3427 times)

Online Chris Bergin

United Launch Alliance Completes Partnership Program with NASA


DENVER, Colo., (April 1, 2009) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) engineers have completed the preliminary design and development of an in-space inflatable sun shield for the Atlas V launch vehicle’s upper stage.  The work was performed in partnership with engineers from ILC Dover in Delaware, and with support from NASA engineers at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

The sun shield is designed to inflate and deploy after jettison of the launch vehicle payload fairing to reflect the sun’s rays away from the upper stage tanks, thereby minimizing the liquid boil-off of the two super-cold propellants.  The Atlas V upper stage uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants, both of which are very cold ­– minus 420 degrees F and minus 290 degrees F, respectively.  Both liquids vaporize quickly in the presence of heat from the sun’s rays in space.

Although the initial design of the sun shield is for use on the Atlas V upper stage, the same concept could be used for ULA’s Delta IV, other rockets or for in-space propellant depots.  Propellant depots are long-term storage tanks or refueling stations for space vehicles on their way to earth orbit, to the Moon or to Mars.

“The sun shield project is an excellent opportunity to collaborate with our NASA partners to develop and test technologies that will further the goals of both the Agency and industry,” said Dr. George F. Sowers, ULA vice president of Business Development.  “We look forward to continuing the project and flying the sun shield on a future Atlas or Delta mission.”

Following the initial component design and test work performed to date, the next step in the project will be to design and build a flight test article that will be deployed around the Atlas V upper stage in space.  The test article will be instrumented with temperature and pressure sensors to further understand its operation in a vacuum, at low temperature and under zero gravity.  An on-board digital camera will also record its deployment.

Funding for the project is being provided by the NASA Innovative Partnership Program (IPP), which brings together industry, colleges, government agencies and national laboratories to solve technical problems in support of NASA’s goals in space exploration, space science, aeronautics and space operations.  Funding is also provided by the companies and NASA centers.

About ILC Dover:  Since 1947, ILC has been active in the design and development of products for both government and industry.  Most ILC products are comprised of soft goods materials – products that are flexible by nature and result in innovative solutions to customer problems.  Whether protecting personnel in hostile environments or developing unique inflatable devices, ILC has an enviable record of performance.  ILC is located in Frederica, Dela. 

About ULA:  Formed in 2006, ULA combines the successful Atlas and Delta expendable launch vehicle programs offering cost-effective and reliable launch services to U.S. government customers, including the Department of Defense, NASA, the National Reconnaissance Office and other commercial organizations.  ULA program management, engineering, test and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo.  Manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located at Decatur, Ala., Harlingen, Texas and San Diego, Calif.  Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Offline jongoff

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Cool.  Glad to see they're making progress on this.  Frank Zegler presented a bit about this project at Space Access (about one year ago this week) on the Propellant Depot panel I chaired. (last presentation on the page)

and here's a paper they presented last year at SPACE 2008:

Offline Ronsmytheiii

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And this is a good reminder that just because one of your fellow space enthusiasts occasionally voices doubts about the SpaceX schedule announcements or is cautious about believing SpaceX has licked a problem before actually seeing proof that's true, it doesn't mean they hate SpaceX.