Irish surface technology company Enbio has secured a 500,000 contract with the European Space Agency (ESA).
The contract will enable the company to optimise a proprietary surface treatment for use as a ‘sunscreen’ to better protect satellites as they travel in space. The contract will also allow Enbio to establish its first manufacturing facility at its headquarters at NovaUCD.
The contract was secured with support from Enterprise Ireland, the co-ordinating body for ESA in Ireland.
In its new manufacturing facility Enbio will use its patented technology platform, CoBlast, to produce unique ‘black’ surfaces, which it will then deploy on critical internal and external surfaces of satellites.
Called ‘SolarBlack(s)’, these surfaces combine extreme thermal and ultra-violet radiation stability, robustness and electrical conductivity characteristics. They’re designed to provide satellites with a more robust surface than is currently available to counter intense solar radiation encountered in space.
Enbio is also currently collaborating with Astrium, the main contractor for the Solar Orbiter satellite mission to the Sun. This ESA science mission is aimed at studying Earth’s nearest star and is due for launch in 2017. The Solar Orbiter will travel closer to the Sun than any previous satellite mission and will require extremely robust and stable surfaces to protect the sensitive scientific instruments on-board. Enbio’s SolarBlack is a candidate technology for a number of applications on this particular satellite, including its critical heatshield.
“The challenges of building a spacecraft that will fly so close to the Sun means we are always looking at better ways to protect it from the harsh environment – and Enbio’s surface looks very promising,” said Andy Whitehouse, Solar Orbiter programme manager at Astrium.
“The possible selection of our surface technology on the Solar Orbiter satellite, in particular as the first line of defence on the heatshield, unquestionably highlights the unique robustness of our surfaces,” said Nigel Cobbe, Vice-president, business development, Enbio.
The Enbio CoBlast process was invented and developed by company CEO John O’Donoghue. CoBlast replaces a metal’s oxide layer, typically aluminium and titanium, with a thin surface that fuses to the underlying metal in a single, environmentally friendly process step, requiring no chemicals or thermal input.
“Our technology offers unique surface solutions to challenges across multiple industry sectors including the aerospace industry,” said Cobbe. “It is Enbio’s intention to establish a Surfaces Centre of Excellence in Ireland, including manufacturing and R&D functions, to offer such solutions to global markets.”