A recent press report from NASA highlighted the protective capabilities of AZ-2100-IECW, a specialty coating that survived long-term exposure on the International Space Station. The electrically conductive coating,1 produced by AZ Technology, protects Curiosity Rover’s critical power unit as it collects data on Mars.
AZ-2100-IECW was exposed to the harsh space environment for four years as part of the Materials on International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) investigation. The coating met stringent outgassing requirements and withstood temperature extremes and thousands of hours of ultraviolet radiation from the sun, making it an ideal candidate for the cooling fins on Curiosity's power unit. AZ-2100-IECW was applied on the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, or MMRTG. This power unit converts the heat from decaying plutonium-238 into electricity that the Curiosity rover needs to survive.
The significance of the results of the investigation: if a material can survive for a long time in one space environment, it may prove useful for longer exploration missions. “It's exciting to be part of the Mars Science Laboratory mission and see our work on the surface of Mars," said Lynn Leeper, AZ Technology president and chief executive officer. AZ Technology has been developing spacecraft paint and coatings for more than 20 years and has been involved in a number of successful spacecraft and space materials experiments. AZ Technology provided 19 different paints, including the AZ-2100-IECW, for the MISSE-2 investigation, which flew from August 2001 to July 2005.
The MISSE materials test bed has provided data on the durability of materials that have helped spacecraft designers shorten the development time for satellite hardware components by 50%. Shorter development times result in more affordable spacecraft and ensure materials perform as expected in challenging space environments.
The complete release, as well as images of the Mars Curiosity Rover, are available from NASA.
- The EC in the coating used for Curiosity stands for "electrically conductive." Static electricity can build up on a spacecraft as it is exposed to proton and electron radiation. Electrically conductive, or static-dissipative, coatings can help protect the electronics from getting zapped.