Boeing Thermal Protection System For Orion

NASA has awarded the Thermal Protection System design and development contract to the Boeing Company; Fiber Materials Inc. will be the principal subcontractor. The new TPS design will be used with the Orion crew exploration vehicle - the spacecraft that will take astronauts back to the moon.

NASA Ames Research Center has awarded the $14 million contract for the development of a phenolic impregnated carbon ablator (PICA) heat shield. The PICA shield was first used on the Stardust interplanetary spacecraft launched February 7, 1999 to study the composition of the Wild 2 comet. It successfully reentered Earth's atmosphere January 15, 2006. The capsule was traveling at 28,900 miles per hour, the fastest reentry speed ever achieved by a man-made object. FMI fabricated the heat shield for the Stardust sample return capsule.


(Stardust reentry as seen from Wendover, Utah airport
[photo by Patrick Wiggins])

The ability to survive high speed reentry is an important consideration for the Orion spacecraft. Orion is intended to perform lunar-direct returns, which result in considerably higher speeds; the spacecraft will need to withstand about five times more heat than experienced by spacecraft returning from the International Space Station.

The best protection against high heat flux is an ablative heat shield. The extreme heat of reentry causes the material to pyrolize - the chemical decomposition of a material by heating in the absence of oxygen. As the PICA chars, melts and sublimates, it creates a cool boundary layer through blowing, protecting the spacecraft.

The first work on the technology of reentry was done in the early stages of the cold war. Intercontinental missile warheads would evaporate during reentry unless a protective technique could be found. Work that began at Douglas Aircraft Company's Project RAND in 1952 suggested that ablation cooling would be the best technique.

There is an interesting science fiction precursor to the idea of ablative cooling. In his 1934 novel Triplanetary, E.E. 'Doc' Smith wrote about a technique for jumping out of a supersonic plane traveling at 2,000 miles per hour in near vacuum.

...He rolled the ball out onto the hatch, where he opened it: two hinged hemispheres, each heavily padded with molded composition resembling sponge rubber...
...He curled up into one half of the ball; the other half closed over him and locked. The hatch opened. Ball and closely-prisoned man plummeted downward..
And as the ball bulleted downward on a screaming slant, it shrank!
...a synthetic which air-friction would erode away, molecule by molecule, so rapidly that no perceptible fragment of it would reach ground.
(Read more about Doc Smith's ablative heat shield)

Edward Elmer Smith had a doctorate in Chemical Engineering; that's a good place to start in writing hard science fiction.

The first reference to the idea that a body returning from space should be wrapped in an ablative material is probably Robert Goddard, writing to the Smithsonian in 1920.

Take a look at more ideas from 'Doc' Smiths Triplanetary. Find out more about Boeing To Develop Heat Shield; learn more about Atmospheric reentry.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/21/2006)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

ESA Space Claw To Grab Space Junk
Now, where have I seen this idea before?

Glass Dome Cities On Mars, Dreamed By Elon Musk
'They will have flung great arches and domes of glass above the wider spaces...' - HG Wells, 1905.

Solar Power Beamed From Space Studied By Brit Boffins
'Our beams feed these worlds energy drawn from... the Sun.' - Murray Leinster, 1931.

Smallest Rogue Planet Discovered In Milky Way
'...a swarm of rogue planets chanced by.' - Poul Anderson, 1967.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

ESA Space Claw To Grab Space Junk
Now, where have I seen this idea before?

Airport Security Now Using Predator-Style Heat Vision Helmets
'Want some candy?'

'Black Friday' Online Shopping - In 1899!
'In your days they showed you a fashion-plate,' said the tailor, 'but this is our modern development.'

DARPA's Virtual Caves Explored By Virtual Robots
'If there's anything in here worth looking at, these pups'll find it.'

Glass Dome Cities On Mars, Dreamed By Elon Musk
'They will have flung great arches and domes of glass above the wider spaces...'

Kuka Robot 'Heidi' Paints With Artificial Intelligence
Robots make art for man.

Looking Glass Display Good Enough For Science Fiction, Fantasy
'The figure seemed to be swimming toward the surface.'

Do You Need The Entire Fembot? Maybe Just The Hand
'...Men don't want real women anymore. You and I are behind the times...'

3D Printing With Sunlight And Sand
'We made a crude, small cell and were delighted...'

Samsung Gets Transparent Smartphone Patent
The Transparency of Things to Come

Monkey Gets A Bigger Brain, Thanks To Human Gene
'It's a madhouse! a madhouse!'

Solar Power Beamed From Space Studied By Brit Boffins
'Our beams feed these worlds energy drawn from... the Sun.'

Pandemic Entrepreneurs! Consider Robo Esso Robot Barista
'... the perpetual beam carved in the robot face of the bartender, the classic Irish grin.'

Shape-Shifting Robot From MIT
'... the structure of that shape is retained down to the molecules.'

Tesla's 20,000 Superchargers
'To recharge the batteries, which can be done in almost every town and village...'

Smallest Rogue Planet Discovered In Milky Way
'...a swarm of rogue planets chanced by.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.