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North Thin Ply Technology (NTPT) has been chosen as the composite materials partner for a proposed Thin Aperture Light Collector (TALC) space telescope project.
NTPT is currently 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 top academic institutions. Together they will develop a radical 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 seemed to have reached a limit with regards to reflector sizes, a new approach has been devised.
The team working on the TALC project have pioneered a revolutionary reflector design and an innovative new stacking technique to enable a massive 20m diameter annular reflector, constructed from sections of carbon fibre 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 fibres 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 fibres used in the NTPT materials provide exceptional stability (due to their low CTE) and heat conductivity in the finished composite components which are 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 Gilles Durand and Marc Sauvage will be presenting their updated progress at the International Conference on Space Optics to be held in Biarritz, France, in October 2016.