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Cork in the European Space Agency's Mission IXV

Since the beginning of space exploration, cork has been used so successfully in the aerospace industry that Donald Thomas, NASA astronaut, went so far as saying: "Never leave Earth without cork"!

In the European Space Agency (ESA)’s IXV mission, cork was used in the Ablative Thermal Protection System, based on a sophisticated engineering programme. The project was coordinated by Thales Alenia Space of Italy and the ESA. Amorim Cork Composites collaborated in the project and developed a cork composite capable of protecting the space vehicle’s structure from the effects of the thermal environment, from the initial phase on the ground, until re-entry into the atmosphere and the descent stage.

Two materials were used in the Ablative Thermal Protection System (TPS): the Amorim Cork Composites P50 composite, with very high thermal insulation capacity, and a silicone based material that covers the antennae and electronic devices.

“The IXV mission has opened a new chapter for the ESA in terms of re-entry capacity and reusability.”

- Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director-General of the ESA