UK Wins NASA Grant To Build Better Heat Shield

Jul 22, 2013

A University of Kentucky assistant professor and a research team have received a $1 million grant from NASA to improve the heat shields for spacecraft as they enter the planet's atmosphere.

The scorching temperature of re-entry into Earth's atmosphere is seen on the Apollo 10's heat shield.
Credit Ian Kath / Flickr, Creative Commons

While he won't be spacewalking, Alexandre Martin told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the work will focus on ways to improve the spacecraft that make it to neighboring planets, such as Mars and Venus.

Martin and the research team, including graduate and undergraduate students, and two high school students, will be working with researchers at NASA sites in Ames, Iowa, and Langley, Va.

The heat shield material is like a carbon matrix with little holes, and you fill the holes with resin. Martin says researchers don't yet understand how different materials might react with other atmospheres in space.