Thermal Protection Systems Research and Development at NASA Ames Research Center

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George E. Pake Auditorium 2002-07-25

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Thermal Protection Systems Research and Development at NASA Ames Research Center

Ames Research Center has been NASA's lead in research and development of Thermal Protection Systems TPS and TPS materials for decades. TPS is required for vehicles which undergo hypervelocity, atmospheric flight in order to protect their payload and structure from aeroconvective/radiative heating from hot shock layer gases. TPS includes determining the aerothermal vehicle environments, TPS materials development as well as ground testing in arc jets and, on occasion flight test. These efforts have enabled hypervelocity, atmospheric flight of NASA's Space Shuttle, the agency's first reusable launch vehicle RLV, Earth reentry vehicles and planetary entry probes. This heritage includes the successes of Apollo (Lunar Return Vehicle), Space Shuttle, Viking (Mars), Pioneer- Venus (Venus), Galileo (Jupiter) and the Mars Pathfinder (delivery of the Sojourner Rover) vehicles. In order to dramatically increase the safety and affordability of access to space, NASA is moving toward the near term development of second generation RLVs which will replace the Space Shuttle. This new vehicle will be enabled, by part by next-generation TPS. Further, the agency is strongly supporting a continuing Mars exploration program and has instituted a new program to conduct research on aerocapture technologies which will enable the next generation of vehicles to efficiently explore the outer planets and their moons with atmosphere, e.g. Titan. Aerocapture technology development is a key to meeting NASA's desirement to cut trip times to the outer planets by half and TPS is key element of this effort.

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