Game Changing Space Travel: HRL is Developing Ultralight Materials for Future Aerospace Vehicles and Structures

HRL Laboratories, LLC announced today that it will develop new ultra-lightweight materials for future aerospace vehicles and structures under NASA’s Game Changing Development Program. These new materials can enable NASA to reduce the mass of spacecraft for deep space exploration by 40 percent and are necessary for the journey to Mars and beyond (source: NASA press release).

The focus of HRL’s effort is to develop ultralight sandwich panels based on our ultra-light lattice core materials ( paper). Attaching thin, stiff facesheets to the top and bottom surfaces of a relatively thick, lightweight core makes such structures. Sandwich structures provide high torsional and bending rigidity at low weight and have become the standard for lightweight design in the aerospace industry. While foam and honeycomb cores are used currently, additional weight savings and performance increases are sought from advanced cores.

Led by Dr. Tobias Schaedler, HRL’s team will develop lighter and stronger cores with innovative truss architectures that will be combined with carbon fiber composite facesheets. The HRL approach combines ultra-stiff and ultra-strong materials (such as nanocrystalline metals) that provide higher strength than conventional materials with highly optimized truss architectures that enable unprecedented degrees of freedom to tailor the mechanical performance.

“We are building on our breakthrough invention of ultralight metallic microlattices (see 2011 HRL Press Release for background info) and will mature this technology to be applied in the next generation of space vehicles,” says Dr. Schaedler.

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HRL Laboratories, LLC, Malibu, California ( is a corporate research-and-development laboratory owned by The Boeing Company and General Motors specializing in research into sensors and materials, information and systems sciences, applied electromagnetics, and microelectronics. HRL provides custom research and development and performs additional R&D contract services for its LLC member companies, the U.S. government, and other commercial companies.

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