NH technology closing in on Jupiter

Posted by Jenn Houston on Mar 9, 2016 10:25:59 PM
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MERRIMACKiStock_000079048899_XXXLarge.jpg — A local company’s high-tech materials are aboard NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter, a spacecraft that broke the record earlier this month for farthest travel from the sun by a solar-powered craft.

“It is extraordinary. Our materials are on this spacecraft to protect the engines and the thrusters — it is really tremendous,” said Peter Antoinette, president of Nanocomp Technologies in Merrimack.

Juno’s development team used Nanocomp’s Miralon carbon nanotube sheet material to provide protection against electrostatic discharge as the spacecraft makes its way to Jupiter.

“It is basically used as a shield,” Antoinette said, protecting parts of the spacecraft’s flight control motor systems and main engine housing as it travels through intense radiation belts.

According to a release from NASA, Juno broke the record to become the most distant solar-powered spacecraft on Jan. 13 when it was about 493 million miles from the sun. The previous record-holder was the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft in 2012.

“Juno is all about pushing the edge of technology to help us learn about our origins,” Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said in a statement on NASA’s website. “We use every known technique to see through Jupiter’s clouds and reveal the secrets Jupiter holds of our solar system’s early history.”

Juno was launched in August 2011.

The four-ton spacecraft, which carries three massive solar arrays providing its power, is scheduled to go into orbit around Jupiter on July 4.

Nanocomp worked with Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the project, to integrate Miralon into the spacecraft in a composite material replacing the traditional aluminum foil used for electrostatic discharge.

Nanocomp was founded 12 years ago, and opened its Merrimack site three years ago.

It currently employs 75 people, and hopes to soon double that number.

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