Expansion of Polyurethane Foam in Low Pressure Environment for Space Debris Removal Applications


As the privatization of space flight has led to an increased number of rocket launches and a new era of space exploration, the issue of space debris is becoming a well-researched phenomenon. With more emphasis on future extraterrestrial missions, such as NASA’s Artemis and SpaceX’s Mars missions, there is a growing concern surrounding the unsustainable practices that create space debris. Although there is a plethora of papers discussing the sources of space debris, as well as its negative impacts on the future of space flight, there are comparatively fewer papers discussing active debris removal methods. This study focuses on one such method - namely, using spray foam to remediate space debris. Spray foam has the advantage of being low-cost and multi-use, which differs from most other active removal methods. To determine the viability of spray foam in space debris removal, this study tests the expansion of polyurethane foam in vacuum, a poorly documented characteristic in current literature. From a sample of 20 tests, a maximum volumetric expansion ratio of 53 was found. The resulting discussion focuses on spray foam’s efficacy as an active debris removal method from these observations.