ULA is following with interest Quest and Ball Aerospace efforts to develop a ruggedized version of Integrated MLI as the aeroshell on ULA cryogenic upper stages. LV-MLI might significantly improve upper stage cryotank thermal insulation, reducing cryopropellant boiloff losses and increasing payload capacity for commercial missions with long coasts for MEO and GEO orbit insertion. ULA will participate in this program by sharing Atlas/Delta aerodynamic launch load data, discussing requirements of this new aeroshell insulation blanket, and reviewing test data to help development and implementation of LV-MLI. LV-MLI would have to have feasibility proven in Phase I, reaching TRL3. Further testing would occur with larger scale ground test articles, then an LV-MLI coupon could be flown over SOFI on an Atlas Centaur mission in view of a rocket camera. After tests, LV-MLI might be flown as full tank insulation over SOFI, then could be flown as primary aeroshell/insulation, reaching TRL9, and ready for infusion into ULA vehicles for NASA and commercial space launch customers. If LV-MLI were proven effective, eventually flight qualified, and adopted by ULA for use on their Atlas V 400 Series missions and possibly Delta IV M+ or Delta IV HLV missions, then a commercial market would exist for LV-MLI. At an average cryotank surface area of 111 m2, with 10 flights per year, would create a demand for about $1M per year of LV-MLI.
Launch Vehicle Integrated Multi-Layer Insulation (LV-MLI) could provide both an aeroshell and high performance thermal insulation in one integrated, light-weight system. LV-MLI could provide benefit to NASA with increased launch vehicle mission capabilities, such as longer duration cryogenic powered missions, longer coast times for orbital transitions, higher payload capacity to GSO, enhancements to the workhorse Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicle families, applicability to upcoming cryogenic upper stage designs such as Advanced Common Evolved Stage, and general improvements to cryogenic fluid management (improved passive thermal control) important for future NASA extended missions and orbiting propellant depots. LV-MLI may be able to replace SOFI in certain situations, which would be very beneficial to NASA and space launch service providers. LV-MLI may be able to provide: ability to withstand Atlas Centaur and Delta Cryogenic Second Stage aerodynamic and launch profile without damage ability to provide high performance thermal insulation of <3 W/m2 (5-layer, 9.5mm blanket, on-orbit, 20K to 295K; compared to a heat leak through 9.5mm SOFI on-orbit of 325 W/m2) ability to be fabricated, assembled and attached to cryotanks