The development of robust and efficient Entry, Descent and Landing systems fulfill the critical function of delivering payloads to planetary surfaces through challenging environments. Future NASA missions will require new technologies to further space exploration and delivery of high mass loads. Of particular interest is the development of reusable hot structure technologies for primary structures exposed to extreme heating environments on atmospheric entry vehicles. A hot structure system is a multifunctional structure that can reduce/eliminate the need for a separate thermal protection system. Thus, there is a need for the development of new technologies to support the realization of low-cost, reusable hot structures applicable to atmospheric entry vehicles. A key barrier is the requirement for the lightweight form to not only carry mechanical loads but also accommodate high temperatures (1000-2200°C), severe transient heating, and temperature gradients through the thickness. Novel materials and associated fabrication processes are needed to balance the demand for structural cohesiveness with desired thermal properties required to protect structure interiors. Sporian Microsystems has developed advanced ceramic materials for harsh environments with a particular focus on materials technologies based on ultra-high temperature polymer derived silicon carbonitride (SiCN). The long-term objective of this proposed work is to heavily leverage Phase I efforts with prior preceramic precursor based insulating materials development, and revise processes that can be used to realize hot structure systems. The Phase II effort will focus on revising and optimizing the additive manufacturing processes developed in Phase I to incorporate the fabrication of both dense and foam components of multifunctional hot structure systems. If successful, Sporian will be well prepared for Phase II efforts focused on producing demo units for NASA testing and addressing vehicle integration.
Thermally and mechanically stable hot structures at high temperature have many applications within NASA including programs such as HyperX, X-37, Mars Astrobiology Explorer Cacher, Jupiter Europa Orbiter, Uranus Orbiter, and Mars Trace Gas Orbiter, as well as facilitates NASA objectives such as ERA, Advanced Air Vehicles Program, Vehicle Systems Safety Technology, and ARMD Advanced Composite Project. Sporian’s proposed technology addresses many of the Strategic Thrusts outlined in NASA’s Strategic Implementation Plan.
The potential markets for a lightweight, high temperature, refractory material is large. This insulation material can be used for Department of Defense hypersonic vehicles, missiles, and rockets for programs such as HAWC, HSSW, Falcon Project, HyRAX, Tactical Boost Glide, Boeing Minuteman, Lockheed Martin Trident, Boeing X-51 Waverider, Raytheon SM-3, and other long range stand-off applications.