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The cork heat shield of ESA’s Qarman CubeSat burning away in simulated atmospheric reentry conditions, during ground testing.
Due to be deployed next week from the International Space Station, Qarman (QubeSat for Aerothermodynamic Research and Measurements on Ablation) will gather data on atmospheric reentry using inbuilt temperature and pressure sensors and a spectrometer.
Qarman’s nose is made from aerospace-quality cork. As seen in the image here, it burns up then flakes away – but this is as intended by its designers. The loss of burnt material carries away unwanted heat with it. This ‘ablation’ process is a tried and tested thermal protection method that ESA and Belgium’s Von Karman Institute, the CubeSat’s builder, want to investigate further.
Read more about Qarman and its deployment here.