3 News: Kiwi scientists aiding NASA’s new space shuttle design – Video

University of Canterbury scientists are helping their NASA counterparts to design new types of scramjets – super-fast planes which could replace the  almost-retired NASA space shuttle fleet.

The UoC researchers are helping to design the craft’s heatshield – at the Mach 10 (or faster) at which it will need to fly, heat will be a major threat to its structure.

An excerpt: (read in full here)

“”They’re actually going to weave this thing; it’s going to be knitted, blown up into shape and impregnated with a real hard ceramic material,” Ms Krumdieck says.

“The heatshield is a crucial part of the aircraft; failure can mean disintegration like the shuttle Columbia back in 2003.

“Ms Krumdieck is developing a thin film of alumina that’ll go on the outside of the heat shield ceramics; protection so it can handle temperatures of more than 1500 degrees.

“”We need a thermal coating on the outside – like the heat shields on the space shuttle – but it can’t be big heavy tiles this time, it has to be a thin layer of ceramics that can handle the very high heat.””