3464. Innovative, Robust and Reusable Acreage TPS for Space Launch, Re-Entry and Hypersonic Vehicles


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Thomas L. Luce: 3464. Innovative, Robust and Reusable Acreage TPS for Space Launch, Re-Entry and Hypersonic Vehicles. 2009.



A new generation of orbital launch, re-entry and hypersonic air vehicles will likely
demand significantly more robust reusable thermal protection systems (TPS)
than earlier and existing vehicles. Not only will these newer TPS need to perform
under the extreme external skin heating conditions inherent to very high speed
air travel, but they will have to do so while being significantly less difficult and
costly to operate than existing systems. Whether one intends to fly at supersonic
(i.e., ~ Mach 1-5), hypersonic (i.e., ~ Mach 5+), or re-entry speeds (e.g., ~ Mach
7 for boosters and ~ Mach 25+ for atmospheric re-entry vehicles), intermittently
or continuously, at elevated altitudes or low, vehicle outer moldlines (OML)
experience significant external aerodynamic and aerothermodynamic heating.
Myriad issues such as reusability, flight profile, mission requirements and
maintenance needs all play important roles in determining the types of TPS
materials and designs desired for particular vehicles. These factors all have
direct and significant implications regarding the weight, cost, and performance of
the overall vehicle design. An array of new launch & re-entry as well as
hypersonic vehicle concepts and related technologies is being developed with
cooperation among and competition between various industry (e.g., Northrop
Grumman Corporation) military (e.g., U.S. Air Force) and civilian (e.g., NASA)
players. Even within the already-weight-sensitive aerospace industry (where
higher marginal vehicle mass usually translates to lower payload weight and
reduced mission capability) developers of new launch, re-entry and hypersonic
vehicles are especially interested in weight issues. Of particular interest in this
paper is some of the continuing work aimed at improving upon space-shuttle-era
TPS technologies, that mitigate shuttle-like TPS durability and maintenance
shortcomings while retaining similar weight and thermal characteristics. In order
to provide some context and perspective for this discussion, this paper presents
selected background information regarding where severe vehicle requirements
come from as well as relevant insights provided by several relatively familiar
historical systems including the Apollo return capsule, Space Shuttle, and X-33.


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