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Integrated MLI Technology Demonstration Mission

Quest Thermal Group and our partner Ball Aerospace are infusing our patented, proprietary Integrated Multilayer Insulation next generation MLI into spacecraft currently being designed and built.  IMLI will fly on the NASA/Ball Green Propellant Infusion Mission in 2015.

NASA's Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) has been selected to test an advanced form of thermal insulation, called integrated multi-layer insulation (IMLI) that could become standard on future satellites and cryogenic subsystems. Validating this new insulation in space will help NASA build the technology required for long human spaceflight missions. Under a subcontract from Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Quest Thermal Group LLC will manufacture the new insulation that will fly aboard the 2015 GPIM mission.

High performance insulation materials are required on spacecraft and cryogenic space systems to maintain consistent spacecraft and subsystem temperatures in the space environment to keep them operating longer and more efficiently.

"Flying IMLI aboard GPIM is a win--win for the program" said Jim Oschmann, vice president and general manager for Ball's Civil Space and Technology business unit. "Conventional insulation was necessary for the GPIM spacecraft, and now we can fly a section of the IMLI at no extra cost to the program and prove it for operational use.

The new IMLI offers many benefits to conventional insulation. By utilizing rigid spacers instead of netting to separate radiation layers, it is structurally more robust, lighter and easier to install. It also has a nearly 30 percent thermal performance increase over conventional multi-layer insulation; the IMLI's increased thermal capability is critical for minimizing heat transference and boil-off of cryogenic storage systems.

The IMLI manufacturer, Quest, a small company located in Arvada, CO, is developing the technology under small business innovative research (SBIR) contracts to NASA.

"Utilizing a small business to innovate a new product and adding it to the GPIM mission demonstrates the synergy between all of the Space Technology project offices to develop and infuse technology into the market," added Oschmann. "Our collaboration on GPIM further enables NASA to demonstrate another critical technology needed to make future space missions safer, more efficient and more cost effective."

GPIM is a project for NASA's Technology Mission Demonstration (TDM) program managed by NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). The primary purpose of the mission is to demonstrate the viability of an alternative propulsion system for spacecraft other than hydrazine by flying a "green" propulsion system on a Ball-built small satellite. Ball Aerospace, the prime contractor and principal investigator, leads a team of co-investigators including Aerojet Rocketdyne, Edwards Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) and NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

See the website section under Products > Integrated Multilayer Insulation for more detailed information on IMLI and its performance.  Spacecraft thermal designers can get in depth information on designing IMLI for your on specific projects via the Quest Thermal Design Guide, also on this website.

Quest and Ball can help design and custom engineer IMLI for specific needs, including desired heat flux, insulation thickness, mass, micrometeoroid/orbital debris protection, electrical continuity, among many properties.  IMLI has up to 50% lower heat flux per layer over conventional MLI, is a rugged, bonded up structure, and offers predictable, repeatable thermal performance.

   

Images above: robust, rigid IMLI panels (purple) insulate the Green Propellant Infusion Mission spacecraft propellant tank.

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. was awarded the contract from NASA to lead a government-industry team in the demonstration of an alternative fuel option for future space vehicles. The Ball team will develop and fly the Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) to demonstrate a high-performance, non-toxic fuel alternative to conventional hydrazine. The mission will demonstrate and characterize the functionality of an integrated propulsion system to bridge the gap between technology development and actual use of green propellant in space.

Ball Aerospace is the prime contractor for the GPIM along with team co-investigators from the Aerojet Corporation, the Glenn Research Center, and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base, with additional mission support from the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center at Kirkland Air Force Base and NASA's Kennedy Space Center. GPIM is a Technology Demonstration Mission under the leadership of NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT).

“Ball is well known for innovative technology solutions and proud to be in partnership with OCT to advance space technology,” said David L. Taylor, Ball Aerospace president and CEO. “This mission brings together a government-industry team from multiple agencies to develop a fully domestic green propellant solution for the next generation of space flight.”

The GPIM will be developed over the next three years and launched in 2015. The purpose of employing green fuel alternatives is to reduce environmental impact and operational hazards, and improve launch processing capabilities. While the current use of hydrazine is efficient, the fuel is highly toxic and dangerous to transport. The GPIM demonstration will provide the aerospace community with a new system-level capability for future missions using a green alternative.

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. supports critical missions for national agencies such as the Department of Defense, NASA, NOAA and other U.S. government and commercial entities. The company develops and manufactures spacecraft, advanced instruments and sensors, components, data exploitation systems and RF solutions for strategic, tactical and scientific applications. For more information visit www.ballaerospace.com.