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Development of Space Fibre Metal Laminates (FML)

Programme Reference
Prime Contractor
Start Date
End Date
Development of Space Fibre Metal Laminates (FML)
The objective of this project is to develop material concepts which result in low weight improved high speed impact performance and/or low weight improved radiation protection. In a follow up activity, the developed FML shall show its capabilities in a flight demonstration (e.g. build a Cubesat (instrumented with optics fibers for health monitoring for impact) and fly it in a collision orbit).
The aircraft grade of GLARE has shown that the layered material concept (FMLs) can be optimized for structural applications as well as protection applications. The impact protection that can be reached (shown for the aircraft grade) is 12 times the one of CFRPs at low impact velocities and 30 times higher at high velocities. Even compared to high strength Aluminium it is 4 times higher at low impact velocities and 3 times higher at high velocities. Improving this property and also the radiation absorbance could make this material a real show changer for the designing of space hardware, especially in the view of the increasing number of small to very small space debris.
The activity aims to further optimize the Fibre Metal Laminate material concepts into Space FML, which results in low weight improved high speed impact performance and low weight improved radiation protection. Both protection improvements are of great interest for human space flight as well as Science and Earth orbiting missions (e.g. Earth observation), especially due to the increase in space debris. Improvements in radiation protection create large benefits for electronic equipment, which can even result in application of de-rated electronic parts. These de-rated electronic parts are order of magnitude cheaper than space qualified EEE parts and are also more readily available, which will enhance the cycle time of product development and application.
The FML concept for aircraft application has shown that FML optimization is possible for aircraft related protection. So are dedicated GLARE grades developed to enhance the impact performance, these concepts resulted in weight savings of more than 20% at even higher impact levels. Since Space applications need protection at significant higher impact levels a dedicated optimization is necessary. The same optimization needs to be performed for radiation protection. Since Space structures are rather complex and need to be low weight it is always recommended and necessary to apply material for multi purposes, which means in this case that the material optimization for protection need also to include adequate mechanical performances. Therefore the results of the above mentioned GSTP are the starting point for this further development of Space FML.
The optimized Space FML may be used for International Space Station (ISS) improved Micro Meteorite Impact (MMI) protection. In addition to the ISS protection, this technology is also for long stay (human) missions, like for instance to Mars. After completion of this optimisation phase a demonstration phase is recommended. The demonstration phase is needed to test the material in a flight mission, in order to measure the Space FML radiation levels in combination with impact caused by debris and/or meteorites. A possible vehicle could be a micro-satellite. After successful in-flight tests the Space FML technology is fully mature to be implemented on current as well as new systems.
Consequently two main phases can be identified for this project.
  • Phase 1 will be the development of the right (two) material concepts for the Space FML configurations. One concept will be focused at enhanced MMI-protection and the other concept on improvement of radiation protection.
  • Phase 2 (not the subject of this activity proposal) would be dedicated to in flight (space) evaluation of the developed concepts. The material concepts will therefore be implemented into a satellite (from cost point of view preferably a micro-satellite).
Application Domain
Generic Technologies
Technology Domain
24 - Materials and Manufacturing Processes
Competence Domain
2-Structures, Mechanisms, Materials, Thermal
Initial TRL
Target TRL
Achieved TRL
Public Document