GrafTech wins NASA heat shield contract for OSIRIS-REx

Ohio-based GrafTech will provide the thermal protection system for a NASA craft to be launched in 2016 that will rendezvous with an asteroid, collect a sample from the surface and return to Earth.

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GrafTech (Parma, Ohio, USA) reported on Dec. 6 that it has recently won another contract for the thermal protection system for a space mission known as OSIRIS-REx, in which NASA plans to rendezvous with an asteroid, collect a sample from the surface, and return it to Earth.

The Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) is a planetary science mission with a 2016 planned launch. OSIRIS-REx will bring back a sample of a carbonaceous asteroid to Earth for detailed analyses. The returned material is expected to help scientists learn more about the time before the formation and evolution of the solar system, initial stages of planet formation and the source of organic compounds that led to the formation of life.

The advanced thermal protection material products and solutions for these projects were developed and manufactured by a subsidiary of GrafTech’s Engineered Solutions' segment. The thermal protection material will be used on the sample return capsule that will bring the asteroid samples back to Earth. The same material was also used on NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity rover) mission and NASA’s Stardust mission that brought back samples from a comet in 2006.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems (Denver, Colo., USA) is building the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and its sample return capsule. It also built the protective aeroshell for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission, and the Stardust spacecraft and its sample return capsule.

GrafTech chairman and CEO Craig Shular says, “This is an exciting area that leverages our core competency of providing unique, innovative graphite material science solutions into high-tech industries. We are proud of our partnerships with NASA and Lockheed Martin Space Systems.”