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For Release: August 30, 2001

Pamelia Caswell
Media Relations Office

Glenn Team Makes Material Last and Last in Space; Wins NASA Award

Researchers Bruce Banks, Sharon Miller, James Sovey and Michael Mirtich devised a coating that prolongs the life of space solar array blankets to upwards of 15 years and earned a $40,000 NASA Space Act award.

The coating, developed at NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio, protects the blankets from the ravages of atomic oxygen, the highly reactive single-atom form of the element, which causes unprotected blankets to deteriorate within a year. The coatings are now protecting the solar array blankets on the International Space Station and were used on Russia's Mir Station solar arrays.

"The team developed the coating, evaluated its performance, and assisted in the transfer of their technology to a coating company," said Woodrow Whitlow, who leads the Research and Technology Directorate at Glenn. "The coating extends the life of Space Station's solar arrays over 15 fold -- a very impressive accomplishment. The cost saving to NASA in terms of repair and replacement missions is significant -- certainly in the millions of dollars. This award recognizes their inventive, problem-solving work."

Bruce Banks leads Glenn's Electro-Physics branch of 10 researchers who study, not only the effects of atomic oxygen, but also of ions and solar radiation on materials. Banks recognized the potential problem with the arrays and proposed the coating solution. One of his current projects is using atomic oxygen to restore damaged art. He lives in Olmsted Township with his wife, Judy.

Sharon Miller, a member of Electro-Physics branch, is a specialist in thin-film coatings and surface texturing. Miller prepared and evaluated coatings for their atomic oxygen durability. The team selected the silica coating based on her findings. Her recent work collaborating with the Cleveland Clinic has been to use atomic oxygen to texture materials to make better bone implants. She and her husband, Frank, live in Olmsted Falls.

James Sovey is a specialist in ion-propulsion and in the development of thin-film coatings using ion sources. Sovey, Banks and Michael Mirtich conceived and patented an ion beam sputtering process for depositing coatings that was later modified to the process used for the silica coating. More recently, Sovey was Glenn's project manager for the team that brought the still-flying Deep Space 1's ion engine to flight status in 1998 and is active in its further development. He and his wife, Lucie, live in Strongsville.

Michael Mirtich, a retired NASA Glenn researcher, is currently a consultant whose specialty is micrometeroid and debris impact with materials in low Earth orbit and ion-beam applications including diamond-like carbon films. He lives in North Olmsted with his wife, MaryAnn.

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