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Bcomp partners with the European Space Agency for natural materials in space exploration

News International-French

26 Feb 2018

Bcomp, a Swiss innovation company in renewable fibre composites, has signed a 2-year contract with the European Space Agency (ESA). Bcomp is a specialist in natural fibres, and as a part of the “ESA Clean Space” program, Bcomp’s materials will be tested under conditions comparable to those in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

Bcomp partners with the European Space Agency for natural materials in space exploration

The goal of the “ESA Clean Space” program is to reduce the environmental impact of space exploration. Over time, Bcomp’s natural materials could be used for building satellites, with maintained technical performance and decreased eco footprint.

The program, carried out and financed by the ESA, develops solutions in order to understand and reduce the environmental impact of space activities, produce less space debris and remove that which is still in orbit. Right now, an ESA space mission produces as much CO2 as 50 Paris-New York return-flights. In addition, the debris from former missions circle the low earth orbit, thus remaining a risk to the active satellites. Furthermore, the debris poses a threat to people if it re-enters the atmosphere without entirely burning up.

As part of this program, Bcomp will test two of its natural-fibre materials, ampliTex technical fabrics and powerRibs reinforcements, in conditions simulating those of low earth orbit. ampliTex materials have already proven themselves in the sports and automotive sectors, thanks to outstanding stiffness, lightness and damping properties. The latter is of crucial interest in order to absorb the intense vibrations that occur during the launch of a satellite.

Tests will include resistance to space  high temperatures (from -150 to +150°C) and the UV radiations found in the earth’s orbit. Other tests, conducted in plasma tunnels, will test if the materials can completely burn up when coming back in the atmosphere once the space mission is over. With time, those ranges of natural materials might be used for building satellites both technically performing and more environmentally friendly.

The partnership with ESA is an important next step for Bcomp. The Fribourg company, which started its activities by making high performance ski cores in 2011, is expanding into the transportation sector (motor sport, automotive and aerospace industries).

As a part of the launch into transportation, Bcomp is also a partner of the Tesla-based Electric GT Championship – the first electric circuit race series, about to start during 2018. Bcomp’s ampliTex technical fabrics and powerRibs reinforcements are used for making lightweight body parts, instead of using the conventional carbon fibres. Not only reducing the environmental impact, the body parts are also safer without shattering in a crash, and costs less.