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Diab’s Divinycell F40 core material has been used to insulate a high-altitude research gondola produced by Space Concordia, a multidisciplinary student society of over 200 members from various fields of studies at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
The materials used to construct high-altitude research gondolas must be light, able to handle extreme cold and preferably have excellent fire, smoke and toxicity (FST) properties. The Space Concordia team recently constructed a gondola to be attached to a high-altitude balloon. High-altitude balloons are used to send payloads up to extremely high altitudes and usually function as weather balloons. They can also be used for experiments in very low pressure and temperature environments at stratospheric altitudes. The gondola will serve as a platform for any scientific payload and can be used by students from other universities.
The gondola is a reusable vessel made out of simple parts, some of which are 3D-printed to drastically reduce weight and cost without compromising durability. A modular design means its volume can be expanded to allow for more scientific payloads to be included. Some payloads, such as optical instruments or biological payloads, require directional control of the gondola, i.e. the ability to change the gondola’s orientation to a specific inertial or relative reference. The high-altitude balloon gondola therefore includes a reaction wheel, allowing constant directional control of the payload up to an altitude of 100,000 ft, or 30,000 m.
To insulate the gondola, it was important to pick a material with very low density, as weight had to be reduced in order to use the smallest amount of helium possible. The team also wanted to achieve superior thermal insulation properties to make sure the electronics would stay within their operational temperature range.
Diab’s Divinycell F40 was chosen for this application. The company says that this recyclable, prepreg-compatible sandwich core has proven that it is able to handle the effect of zero pressure (or, more accurately in this case, about 1 KPa, which is about 99% less than average air pressure) and extremely cold temperatures (-60°C or -76°F). In addition, the material has excellent FST properties, preventing forest fires if the electronics would malfunction after landing. The one small disadvantage – that the material is statically charged – was prevented by putting tape around the inner edge preventing the electronics to come in contact with the insulation.
Image provided by Diab
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