Up to the stars

technology report online, October 2015

Space, the final frontier - for Heraeus no longer unknown territory. Our materials and products made it to the moon and beyond.

retroreflector
Source: NASA
1969: Retroreflector on the moon

The unending expanse of space is not unknown territory for Heraeus. Why? Special iridium catalysts (space catalysts) from Heraeus are already used to break down hydrazine in rocket fuel in engines for probes and satellites.

Man on the moon

Heraeus has even supplied high-tech materials for use on the moon. In 1969, the Apollo 11 mission landed a laser reflector on Earth’s natural satellite. This reflector contains 100 triple prisms made of Suprasil®, a specialty quartz glass developed by Heraeus. To this day, the reflector serves to determine the exact distance between Earth and the moon. To take the measurements, a high-intensity infrared laser beam is directed at the retro reflectors, which function like a cat‘s eye, and then the return transit time of the light is measured.

Gold and platinum in space

Heraeus has also contributed to highly precise experiments in space. As part of the joint international LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) project, the European Space Agency (ESA) is searching for evidence of gravitational waves—“wrinkles” in the space-time continuum—which Einstein posited as part of his general theory of relativity. On board the satellite are perfectly identical cubes made of a special gold/platinum alloy and with edges 50 millimeters in length. These precious test masses will allow researchers to measure minute changes in distance caused by gravitational waves, despite their small magnitude.

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