MethaneSAT is an advanced methane-tracking satellite that launched in March 2024. (Photo courtesy MethaneSAT)

Aligned carbon nanotube material and digital design tools from Carbice are strengthening the critical satellite systems of Blue Canyon Technologies.

ATLANTA—Carbice Corporation is collaborating with Blue Canyon Technologies, Inc. as a key supplier of aligned carbon nanotechnology (CNT) materials for critical spacecraft programs, Carbice said in a release.

The collaboration is expected to ensure that aligned carbon nanotube material and digital design tools from Carbice will continue to strengthen critical satellite systems from Blue Canyon Technologies.

Carbice is a developer and manufacturer of aligned CNT thermal interface materials (TIMs). Blue Canyon Technologies, a subsidiary of RTX, is a provider of turnkey small satellites, including nanosatellites, microsatellites, and ESPA-class satellites.

Carbice’s aligned CNT material, Carbice Space Pad™, is reported to have demonstrated on-orbit success for critical government missions and customers. The material will continue to be integrated into nearly all satellite products from RTX’s Blue Canyon Technologies. At the time of the release, Carbice Space Pad was scheduled to launch on MethaneSAT, an advanced methane-tracking satellite in space. MethaneSAT, launched in March, will offer high-resolution quantification and tracking of total global emissions to find and fix leaks faster and document the progress, according to the release.

“In our experience, aligned CNTs from Carbice are the most reliable advanced material for managing thermal systems,” said Blue Canyon Technologies Director of Thermal Systems Engineering Jennifer Cech Young, in the release. “We are thrilled to continue using it on nearly all Blue Canyon satellites moving forward.”

Spacecraft face the harshest environments for thermal management, with intense radiation, large temperature variations, and limited ways for heat to move. Carbice Space Pad is described as a “proven and reliable thermal solution that combines high-power dissipation performance with ease of use.”

According to Carbice, traditional thermal interface materials, such as grease and liquid silicone rubber, can damage parts during assembly integration and test (AI&T), causing delays in production. Carbice Space Pad is said to negate damage and delay by saving existing material from being discarded and avoiding an increased schedule risk. By reducing and eliminating scraps due to rework and destruction, Carbice Space Pad is a more sustainable TIM that enables longer-term performance in orbit, the company said.

The material is also reported to be “the first fully predictable interface solution.” The company’s digital tool, Carbice SIM, predicts Space Pad performance with accuracy, offering exact pressure distribution analysis and saving thermal vacuum testing time, the release said.

“This is a natural collaboration for us as innovators in aerospace manufacturing,” Young said. “Collaborating with the deep tech trailblazers at Carbice strengthens our ability to launch quickly, launch well, and expand the limits of what’s possible in space. Dr. Baratunde Cola and his team of pioneers have helped enable that speed and mission with Carbice Space Pad and Carbice SIM. The Carbice team have been true collaborators from the start, and critical satellite programs have launched successfully in part due to our integration of Space Pad.”

Previously in use on the International Space Station, Carbice Space Pad has also shown demonstrated success on satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO), GEO orbits, and constellations. Beyond space, the Carbice® Pads are used on Earth in compute and power applications, a fast-growing application area.

“The team at Blue Canyon Technologies have been at the forefront of spacecraft innovation from the start—and we are always proud to collaborate with fellow pioneers,” said Carbice CEO and Founder Baratunde Cola, Ph.D., in the release. “As deep tech innovators with a proven critical material for aerospace and defense applications, this is a natural collaboration that will allow both our companies to continue to innovate and build stronger spacecraft solutions. To have Carbice Space Pad on MethaneSAT and nearly all Blue Canyon satellites moving forward is an immensely exciting achievement for our own team of pioneers and the larger community that supports us.”

Carbice Space Pad is an aligned carbon nanotube (CNT) material that can be integrated into spacecraft systems as a thermal interface material. (Photo courtesy Carbice)

Aligned carbon nanotubes were recently recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense as a “technology of special interest” for mission critical applications in U.S. security systems. On July 14, 2023, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee passed the 2024 NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) in a 58-1 bipartisan committee vote that elevated aligned CNTs as a special interest technology.

Carbice, based in Atlanta, operates what it calls “the world’s largest aligned carbon nanotube facility.” The company is minority-founded, with diverse (minority and female) leadership on its executive team and deep ties to the academic and technology communities in the U.S. southeast region. Its expanding footprint also includes Silicon Valley and the European Union.

In addition to Carbice Space Pad, the company offers Carbice Pad. The thermal interface material is said to provide stronger surface area cooling performance for the industrial power and data sectors, EV / mobility applications, and mission-critical data applications for U.S. national security.