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TISICS confirms two SPRINT projects for testing and manufacture of metal composites for spacecraft

TISICS, a world-leading supplier of lightweight Metal Matrix Composites (MMCs) for high performance industries, has signed up to the national SPRINT business support programme. SPRINT will provide funding for two projects, in collaboration with the University of Surrey and The Open University, to develop technologies that will enable advanced lightweight tanks for demisable spacecraft and the critical tanks needed for lightweight storage of hydrogen to meet net-zero transport ambitions.

The first project will develop standardised fracture mechanics testing methods and the second, digitising a key process to reduce both cost and manufacturing energy consumption.

TISICS is the only integrated ceramic fibre and metal composite manufacturer worldwide, with a vision to develop world-leading industrial supply of high-performance pressure vessels and 40 per cent lighter components for space, aviation and low-energy transport sectors.

The projects will be funded by a grant from the £5 million SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) programme that provides unprecedented access to university space expertise and facilities. SPRINT helps businesses through the commercial exploitation of space data and technologies.

The SPRINT project with The Open University will exploit the expertise of the University’s Space Instrument Development (SID) group and its experience in mass spectrometry, vacuum physics, gas processing and system control, enabling TISICS to develop a system that can allow in-cycle control of an out-gassing process, reducing costs and manufacturing energy consumption.

The SPRINT project with the University of Surrey focuses on fracture testing of MMCs to enable qualification for use in satellite pressure vessels. The University of Surrey has expertise in testing materials as well as state-of-the-art testing equipment at its Mechanical Testing Facility and Microstructural Studies Unit. This will allow TISICS to develop a test method applicable to MMCs and generate data to demonstrate the safe use of fibre reinforced metal composites in spacecraft.

Stephen Kyle-Henney, Managing Director at TISICS said: “This is an amazing opportunity to utilise the expertise of two of the leading UK space universities to help us achieve our vision of becoming the first global company to exploit MMC technology in this innovative way. SPRINT is ideal for providing us with assets for technical knowledge and facilities, as well as the knowledge that the data is captured and analysed by a respected organisation.

“The team at the OU are passionate about technology and their support may also help us to move on to other technology developments. The interactions with their academics are fantastic and SPRINT offers a good mechanism to commercialise their research.

“Surrey has a phenomenal capability of materials and fundamental research expertise. By helping us to reach an international standard for testing of our materials, we are resolving a critical issue for manufacturers in the space industry.

Andrew Morse, Project Officer (Mass Spectrometry) at The Open University commented: “The challenge with this particular project is centred around the role that smaller, lighter mass spectrometers can play in helping TISICS to optimise and streamline the process control of its MMC production. The application of our expertise in this area has been demonstrated in both terrestrial and space environments so we have the credentials, knowledge and facilities to support TISICS’ long-term goals.”

Dr Andrew Viquerat, Senior Lecturer, Mechanical Engineering Sciences at the University of Surrey added: "The University of Surrey has collaborated with TISICS for many years, and we are pleased to be able to use our expertise and facilities to help in the development of a standard for qualifying a new class of materials for use in space. We very much welcome the opportunity to advance the characterisation of metal-matrix composites which could make spacecraft lighter, safer and more sustainable in future."