We are a multi-disciplinary engineering student team that is building a small satellite to test the self-healing material in space.
After winning the first Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC), Space Concordia is returning with a new satellite project focusing this time on testing an amazing self-healing material in space. We are a large multi-disciplinary engineering student team that won the first edition of this national competition to launch a satellite. ConSat-1 has been accepted in European Space Agency's Fly Your Satellite program and it is currently in the final stages of completion. Our payload this time, for ConSat-2, will help the future of space flight by testing the effects of the vacuum of space on the revolutionary self-healing material!
Astronaut Julie Payette's message to Space Concordia after winning the first CSDC in September 2012:
What is the Self-Healing Material?
Developed at Concordia University by Dr. Suong V. Hoa, the director of the Concordia Centre for Composites (CONCOM), in collaboration with other shareholders such as MPB Technologies and the Canadian Space Agency, the self-healing material is a fiber-reinforced composite. Composites are materials that are made from two or more ingredients: Matrix and reinforcement. The self-healing material uses carbon fiber for reinforcement and an epoxy resin for its matrix. The self-healing material uses an autonomic polymer healing process based on a three-step process that starts with a trigger response immediately after the material is damaged. The second step allows for the transport of a healing agent to the affected area. Microcapsules are placed throughout the resin to facilitate this step. The third step is the chemical repair process. Click here for more information
Why is Self-Healing Material important for Space Exploration?
This kind of material predates Dr. Hoa's research. For example in the paint industry, self-healing paints were used to repair minor surface scratches. This patented technology has yet to be tested in space, this is where Space Concordia comes into play. Our mission is to conduct a comprehensive study of the self-healing technology for spacecraft applications by sending a 3U CubeSat (34 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm) in orbit . Specifically, the behaviour of the healing process will be observed in a microgravity environment. Capillary action (when surface tension forces + adhesion forces move liquid in narrow spaces) mainly drives the healing agent into the cracks in microgravity, since the cracks are very small. Thus, doing our experiment in microgravity is crucial because we want to see how the self-healing material would react in the vacuum of space. Studying the long-term effects of radiation on the material is necessary as well. Our team has designed a method to autonomously conduct this experiment in space in a small satellite.
This self-healing material is of high interest within the aerospace community such as the Canadian Space Agency and the European Space Agency. If viable, it would be capable of increasing the lifetime of space structures. Prolonging the life of a spacecraft will decrease the required maintenance over its lifetime, which is impossible in many cases. For example, the ammonia leak that happened on the International Space Station (ISS) in May was probably caused by a MicroMeteoroid and Orbital Debris (MMOD) impact. if a self-healing shield is implemented in the ISS, the advantage would be to reduce the amount of manual repairs needed on the exterior of the craft and generally improve its lifespan in orbit. This would allow for an overall cost reduction for the spacecraft. One of the most dangerous issues about sending a manned mission to Mars is the passage of the spacecraft through clouds of space dust. NASA is currently working on a protective shield for a future Mars spacecraft. Self-healing material could be a good candidate to be one of the layers of this shield. That's why we think this payload is the next necessary leap in spacecraft design.
All the ground tests indicate its successful feasibility in space. However, this material has never been sent into orbit yet. Our experiment includes two different samples, one with and one without the healing agent to be used as control. Once in orbit, the samples will be subjected to a three-point bending test. Our test will follow a proposed standard test of ASTM that is “Recommendations for an ASTM Standardized Test for Determining GIIc of Unidirectional Laminated Polymeric Matrix Composites”. This test was chosen to conform to the results obtained from the ground tests. Asgar Khan, Dr. Hoa's PhD Student, has been working with us to develop this experiment.
A thermal actuator will be used to apply a load on each sample until the first crack appears. Load cells will be used to determine the amount of applied load from the actuator. Fiber-Bragg Gratings will be used to measure the strain on the sample at any given time. By measuring the acoustical propagation with the FBGs, the initiation of a crack can be detected and thus, the actuation can be stopped as soon as cracks appear. The sample will be allowed 1 week to heal and the experiment will be repeated to measure how much strain can the sample endure after it has been healed. The process of cracking and healing is repeated many times to generate more data points. The same process is done on the sample without a healing agent alternatively to compare the results from the sample with a healing agent. The one-week period between each experiment is chosen in order to allow the batteries to fully charge before each experiment and to allow the data from each experiment to downlink to Space Concordia’s ground station in Montreal, Canada. The experiment is terminated after the material does not heal itself anymore.
Here is a breakdown of where the funds will go to:
We know that this is not an enough goal to build our entire CubeSat, but this modest goal is to help ensure that we can finish our satellite. Your contribution will allow us to buy the crucial components that we need to complete this small satellite. Together, we can contribute to the advancement of space exploration. Here is a simple cost breakdown of our satellite:
Our team of 25 engineering students (+ 1 physics student) is dedicated to devoting our time to build a functional satellite. We come from different backgrounds and are connected by our passion for space. We have experience from having participated in the first Canadian Satellite Design Challenge. This experience along with the talents of the team members of different engineering backgrounds, will make sure the project is finished by May 2014. This is when we have to deliver our engineering model to the competition to undergo different tests such as vibrations, thermal-vacuum and a functional test.
What is Space Concordia?
Space Concordia is an engineering student-run society in Concordia University whose interest lies in astronautical engineering and space. We have a huge involvement in our university as well as a school outreach program to promote space exploration. We are also building two satellites, one rocket, and a Martian rover. By helping us buy the equipment we need for our satellite, you’ll be offered numerous types of perks, from Twitter shout-outs to Marc Garneau (1st Canadian astronaut in space!) signed photos to invitations to dine with the team and check out our lab and satellite. The choice is yours, thank you!
If you'd like to contact us, you can send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
For sponsorship purposes, please contact: email@example.com
Songs Used in the Video
- Concordia Center for Composites, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Concordia University
- Department of Smart Materials and Sensors for Space Missions, MPB Technologies Inc.
- Shock Waves Physics Group and Department of Mechanical Engineering, McGill University
- Center for Applied Research on Polymers (CREPEC), Mechanical Engineering Department, École Polytechnique de Montréal
- Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Concordia University
- The Quality Engineering Test Establishment, Department of National Defence
- Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, INRS-Énergie, Matériaux et Télécommunications
- Engineering Development, Canadian Space Agency
 P. Merle, Y. Guntzburger, E. Haddad, S. V. Hoa,G. Thatte, "Self Healing Composite Material and Method of Manufacturing Same," U.S. Patent 0 036 568, Feb 5, 2009.
 G. Thatte et al., "Development and Characterization of Self-Healing Epoxy Systems for Space Applications," in Proc. 1st International Conference on Self Healing Materials, Noordwijk aan Zee, Netherlands, 2007.
 B. Aïssa et al., "The Self-Healing Capability of Carbon Fibre Composite Structures Subjected to Hypervelocity Impacts Simulating Orbital Space Debris," ISRN Nanomaterials, Volume 2012, Article ID 351205.
 Davidson, B.D. and Teller, S.S., "Recommendations for an ASTM Standardized Test for Determining GIIc of Unidirectional Laminated Polymeric Matrix Composites," Journal of ASTM International, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2010, pp. 1-11.
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Our project faces risks and challenges like other projects out there. The biggest risk is the unforeseeable cost increases and a lack of budget. In ConSat-1's development, some of the remaining budget came from students' own pockets. We're trying to avoid that but if need be, that's a last measure we're willing to take. Companies such as Google Montreal have taken an interest in our project and are sponsoring us. We will keep pushing to get sponsorship from more local companies here in Montreal.
We have faced a lot of design challenges until now and we're sure we'll face some more later on. We always find a way around these challenges by doing excessive research, consulting with older Space Concordia members, contacting industry professionals for advice. People from MDA, the Canadian Space Agency, MPB Communications and professors in Concordia University are kind enough to give us feedback and advice when we need them most.
Member departure is another risk in our project. Students who graduate tend to leave the project in order to pursue their own goals. However, thanks to proper documentation and good communication, we have had very smooth transitions when people had to leave. The current core members of the project are most likely to stay until the end.
When a damage (such as a crack) occurs, the properties of composite materials (like its strength, stiffness, fracture toughness) degrades. Ideally after healing process, the properties are restored. The degree of restoration of properties depends on the quality of healing.
The rate of the healing process is also quite interesting, could you shed some light on that? 10 mins at 40C is what i noted in the patent.
It depends on the healing system (which chemicals are you using as healing agents). For our case (5E2N /Grubbs), the gellation time of monomer (5E2N) at the presence of 0.1% catalyst is only 0.8 min. The vitrification time is 8 min at room temperature. However, when we integrate the system into composite materials, we intend to allow, say 24 hours, to give it enough time to recover the properties.
Epoxy is not like a plastic. Plastic, in a scientific term, is a thermoplastic materials which melts above certain temperature and can be recycled. However, Epoxy is a thermoset which does not melt and can not be recycled once it is cured (crosslinked).
Polymerization doesn't happen at freezing temperatures? How does the self-healing material go around that?
The healing monomer (5E2N) we are using as healing agent has a very low freezing point. That means it remains at liquid state even at very low temperature. So, it should be able to polymerize when it comes in contact with catalyst particles.