North Thin Ply Technology (NTPT; Renens, Switzerland), a leader in lightweight prepreg materials, reports that it has been chosen as the composite materials partner for a proposed Thin Aperture Light Collector (TALC) space telescope project (talc-telescope.eu).
NTPT is working as part of a consortium brought together by the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). The group also includes Multiplast, the French composite component specialists and a number of academic institutions. Together they will develop a new space telescope with significantly improved sensitivity and resolution.
An astronomer’s ability to detect smaller and fainter objects is ultimately limited by the size of a telescope’s reflector, and as existing technologies and launch vehicles reached a limit with regards to reflector sizes, a new approach has been devised.
The team working on the TALC project has developed a new reflector design and a new stacking technique to enable a massive 20m diameter annular reflector, constructed from sections of carbon fiber composite, to fit within the maximum dimensions of the existing launch rocket payload fairings.
NTPT will supply a low cure temperature, high Tg, thin ply prepreg for the TALC project using pitch fibers and a cyanate ester resin system. These prepregs will be processed into honeycomb components, with small cells for the reflector face supports and larger cells for the backing structure. The pitch-based carbon fibers used in the NTPT materials reportedly provide exceptional stability (due to their low CTE) and heat conductivity in the finished composite components — both critical parameters in the production of a telescope mirror that will function as designed in a space environment.
The TALC consortium is currently in the final stages of the process to secure the project funding and key team members.