ECORE Cork Insulates NASA Rockets
ECORE International, a company that transforms reclaimed waste into unique performance surfacing, recently provided heat-dissipating cork to cover the exterior of two rockets that launched from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va., from November 2013 to January 2014. ECORE has been producing Cork products since 1876, when the company operated as The Lancaster Cork Company.
"Cork has always been used as a thermal barrier," said Arthur Dodge, III, Chief Executive Officer and President of ECORE. "ECORE has been the exclusive supplier of cork heat-shield material for NASA's space shuttle program for more than 20 years, working with the government, the space agency, and various contractors."
The Minotaur 1 rocket that launched on November 19, 2013 included a record payload of 29 satellites, including one built by high school students in northern Virginia. The Antares rocket that launched on January 9, 2014 traveled to the International Space station carrying a Cygnus cargo spacecraft. This was the first commercial resupply launch rocket for ECORE's customer, Orbital Sciences, Corp., to the International Space Station. ECORE sends the cork/resin blend to its customers in sheets, ranging from one-eighth to an inch in thickness.
"The number of launches per year varies, but once a month is about average," said Norma Presler, Quality Manager. "In addition to supplying cork for the Minotaur 1 and Antares rockets, we supply things for other launches that aren't widely publicized like targets for defense missile tests and experimental sounding rockets."
Cork is a wood product. ECORE blends the cork with a phenolic resin to give it a highly insulating quality. The cork on the rockets is then covered in ceramic paint, so it isn't visible as cork. This material performs its function during the rocket's flight into space.
"It gets used up in the (liftoff) process," said Wanda Graham, Research and Development Manager at ECORE. "It gets charred and sort of vaporizes." Ablative material is defined as: slowly burning away in a controlled manner, so that heat can be carried away from a spacecraft by the gases generated by the ablative process; while the remaining solid material insulates the craft from superheated gases."
To learn more about ECORE visit: http://www.ecoreintl.com/. To learn more about NASA and its last launch, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/wallops/home/#.Us6o-dJdW8B.