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Novel Testing Technique to Evaluate the Durability of Textile Composites at Extreme Environments



At the 35th Space Symposium on April 9, 2019, NASA proposed a plan to return astronauts to the moon’s surface by 2024 [1]. At the moon, the launch vehicles will be exposed to extreme environments including but not limited to lunar dust, extreme temperatures, launch loads, stresses, rapids accelerations, and thermal gradients. Composite materials have become an attractive option to use in aerospace structures. These conditions can degrade the mechanical properties of composite materials, compromising the safety of the crew and the space shuttle. Therefore, it is critical to establish a detailed understanding of the mechanical behavior and damage mechanisms when exposed to these conditions. This study aims to investigate the tensional and flexural behavior of woven carbon/epoxy and woven Kevlar®/epoxy in extreme environments. To accurately simulate the material/mechanics conditions that an aerospace structure will experience, only one surface of each composite is exposed to - 60°C, while the other surface is at 25 °C. An environmental chamber was designed and manufactured to keep these temperatures. The samples were conditioned for 5 hours, after 40 min, the temperature on each of the surfaces reached equilibrium, and for the rest of the time did not have a significant variation. The load applied during the flexural tests was on the surface exposed to -60 °C. For comparison, the flexural and tension tests were also performed on samples exposed completely to 25 °C and -60 °C.


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