The overall objective of the Phase II program is to develop a domestically-available needled (2.5D) C-C composite and demonstrate its use as a nozzle extension for future lunar lander and upper-stage propulsion applications. This will be accomplished through a design and analysis trade study, coupled with the fabrication of a representative nozzle structure. In the past decade, a number of NASA research and development programs have been aimed at improving the capability and readiness of domestically available C-C for use as a lightweight nozzle extension. Lyocell-based carbon cloth composites continue to be a leading candidate in the quest for a domestically available C/C material. Although Lyocell-based CMC materials have been previously fabricated, there is still a great need to better understand the process of fabricating Lyocell-based composites due to the brittle nature of the fabric and the thermal expansion mismatch with likely matrix constituents. Within the Phase II program, MR&D will lead a team consisting of Allcomp, Southern Research and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC). Allcomp will be responsible for fabricating Lyocell-based carbon fiber composite plates and nozzle extensions. Material characterization testing will be performed at Southern Research. Sierra Nevada Corporation will serve as the prime partner and supply information relative to the nozzle extension geometry and relevant propulsion environment. Additionally, hot fire testing will be performed at one of SNC’s facilities.
NASA has many recent and ongoing propulsion applications which would benefit from the development of a domestically-available C-C material. Examples include the space launch system (SLS) upper stage engines, the Orion Launch Abort System and a variety of in-space and lander descent/ascent propulsion systems. Similarly, there is a desire to expand the industrial base and technology readiness level of U.S carbon-carbon and ceramic matrix composite technology.
MR&D has engaged in discussions with Sierra Nevada Corporation about ongoing and future propulsion development programs. Among the candidate propulsion systems for transition are a hybrid rocket motor under development for DoD for tactical applications and an RCS thruster using non-toxic propellants and intended for use on the first stage of a reusable launch vehicle.