NASA and Boeing have begun to test a new insulation system designed to protect the Space Launch System and its cold fuels as part of the agency’s preparations for Mars exploration missions.
Three types of cryogenic foam are under tests to assess how they insulate the SLS rocket’s core stage and launch vehicle stage adapter that links the core stage to the interim cryogenic propulsion stage, NASA said Saturday.
The ICPS will work to thrust the Orion unmanned spacecraft beyond the moon prior to the vehicle’s return to Earth as part of the planned Exploration Mission-1 in 2018.
“NASA has developed new, more environmentally friendly insulation materials for future launch vehicles,” said Michael Frazier, chief of the nonmetallic materials branch at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
“The cryoinsulation materials for SLS are not only more environmentally compliant, but they are also just as efficient and lightweight as the previous generation of materials,” added Frazier.
The agency noted it uses the three types of foam to cover hundreds of 24-by-24-inch panels for various tests meant to qualify the insulation for the harsh conditions SLS will experience before and during flight.
NASA expects to complete qualification testing of all the foam systems in late 2016.