NASA 1998 SBIR Phase I


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 98-1 09.10-8074

PROJECT TITLE: Advanced CNC Manufacturing of Composite Thermal Protection Systems for Earth/Planetary Aerocapture and Entry

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (LIMIT 200 WORDS)

This project will develop a new method for manufacturing ablative heat-shield systems for hypersonic aerobrakes, planetary entry vehicles, and high-speed tactical missiles. NASA has an ambitious program defined for robotic and human exploration of space. Today's TPS manufacturing for such missions is based on technology from the 1960's. For suitable ablative materials, today's manufacturing process involves either: 1) bonded-on and filled honeycomb; or 2) machined and bonded tiles. Both approaches are labor-intensive and costly, and produce heat shields with less than optimal performance. In Phase I, we will verify and demonstrate the feasibility of the new "SCBA" manufacturing process for heat shields which is highly automated and is based on a CAD/CAM approach with CNC laser milling. This process requires flexible elastomeric charring ablators, and two multi-member families of materials are now available: 1) NBR/phenolic ablators for high heating rates above 500 Btu/ft2-sec; and 2) filled-silicone ablators for heating rates that can be as high as approximately 500 Btu/ft2-sec.

POTENTIAL COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS

The technical results of this project have excellent and far-reaching commercial applications. Today, there is a significant shortage of ablative-heat-shield systems to meet near-term needs of NASA, Department of Defense and the aerospace industry. There is a broad range of thermal environments for which protection is needed, and this generates the requirement for a family system. A successful Phase I and Phase II should result in commercial production of a range of heat shield products, and these might be supplied both as manufactured heat-shield subassemblies or as heat shield "kits."

NAME AND ADDRESS OF PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

William M. Congdon
Applied Research Associates, Inc.
5941 S. Middlefield Road, Suite 100
Littleton , CO 80123

NAME AND ADDRESS OF OFFEROR

Applied Research Associates Inc
4300 San Mateo Blvd., NE, Suite A-220
Albuquerque , NM 87110