Press Release

Glenn Team Makes Material Last and Last in Space; Wins NASA Award

By SpaceRef Editor
September 6, 2001
Filed under ,

Glenn Team Makes Material Last and Last in Space; Wins NASA Award
Researchers Bruce Banks, Sharon Miller, James Sovey and Michael Mirtich
devised a coating that prolongs the life of space solar array blankets to
upwards of 15 years and earned a $40,000 NASA Space Act award.

The coating, developed at NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio,
protects the blankets from the ravages of atomic oxygen, the highly reactive
single-atom form of the element, which causes unprotected blankets to
deteriorate within a year. The coatings are now protecting the solar array
blankets on the International Space Station and were used on Russia’s Mir
Station solar arrays.

“The team developed the coating, evaluated its performance, and assisted in
the transfer of their technology to a coating company,” said Woodrow
Whitlow, who leads the Research and Technology Directorate at Glenn. “The
coating extends the life of Space Station’s solar arrays over 15 fold — a
very impressive accomplishment. The cost saving to NASA in terms of repair
and replacement missions is significant — certainly in the millions of
dollars. This award recognizes their inventive, problem-solving work.”

Bruce Banks leads Glenn’s Electro-Physics branch of 10 researchers who
study, not only the effects of atomic oxygen, but also of ions and solar
radiation on materials. Banks recognized the potential problem with the
arrays and proposed the coating solution. One of his current projects is
using atomic oxygen to restore damaged art. He lives in Olmsted Township
with his wife, Judy.

Sharon Miller, a member of Electro-Physics branch, is a specialist in
thin-film coatings and surface texturing. Miller prepared and evaluated
coatings for their atomic oxygen durability. The team selected the silica
coating based on her findings. Her recent work collaborating with the
Cleveland Clinic has been to use atomic oxygen to texture materials to make
better bone implants. She and her husband, Frank, live in Olmsted Falls.

James Sovey is a specialist in ion-propulsion and in the development of
thin-film coatings using ion sources. Sovey, Banks and Michael Mirtich
conceived and patented an ion beam sputtering process for depositing
coatings that was later modified to the process used for the silica coating.
More recently, Sovey was Glenn’s project manager for the team that brought
the still-flying Deep Space 1’s ion engine to flight status in 1998 and is
active in its further development. He and his wife, Lucie, live in

Michael Mirtich, a retired NASA Glenn researcher, is currently a consultant
whose specialty is micrometeroid and debris impact with materials in low
Earth orbit and ion-beam applications including diamond-like carbon films.
He lives in North Olmsted with his wife, MaryAnn.

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SpaceRef staff editor.