Vantablack Coating Hits Space
The blackest coating on earth has made it into orbit.
Vantablack is an ultra-black coating developed by the U.K.-based Surrey Nanosystems, using carbon nanotubes to create a surface absorbs nearly all the light that hits it. While it was originally developed with space applications in mind, there was discussion of many possible uses (including art) when it was first announced in 2014.
Now, the blacker-than-black coloring has made it to space for the first time, aboard the Kent Ridge 1 satellite, according to Surrey. Berlin Space Technology, which worked with the National University of Singapore on the Kent Ridge project, used Vantablack coating on baffles around the “star tracker” on the satellite, to minimize reflection of light around the tool.
BST says the satellite was actually launched into orbit in December, though it wasn’t announced that Vantablack was included in the design until earlier this week (May 16). Kent Ridge 1 is a low-Earth orbit satellite, meaning it orbits at an altitude below 1,243 miles.
Shades of Black
Vantablack can be applied in two ways: It can be directly applied to a substrate using vacuum-deposition, or it can be sprayed on and processed after. The spray-applied version of the product is called Vantablack S-VIS, and is technically slightly less black than original Vantablack. The product coating the baffles on Kent Ridge 1 is Vantablack S-VIS.
Vantablack can be directly applied to a substrate using vacuum-deposition, or it can be sprayed on and processed after.
Vantablack S-VIS is the more versatile of the two substances, according to Surrey, and can be applied to a variety of substrates, resulting in reflectance of less than 0.2 percent.
“The Vantablack coating was originally developed to improve the efficiency of optical systems in space, and this BST satellite project gives us a very early opportunity to prove its performance,” says Ben Jensen, chief technology officer of Surrey NanoSystems, “The material can be used to improve the performance of satellites, but also to dramatically reduce weight and size of optical systems—which could be crucial for future space missions.”