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 |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )
Related News Stories -
Russian Space Garden
'We saw the gardens, flooded with artificial sunlight...' - Harley S. Aldinger, 1932.
Make Space Tools On The Spot (Like Moties)
'A moment ago it was squeezing silver toothpaste in a ribbon...' - Niven and Pournelle, 1974.
Bacteria Behave Differently In Space
'The Republic struggled to control its Sours...' - Bruce Sterling, 1985.
SpaceX Spacesuit Design Transmitted By Elon Musk
Welcome, SpaceX, to the club of space suit imaginers and makers.
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.
Dubai Scorpion Police Hoverbike Ready To Pull Young Kirk Over
'Is there a problem, officer?'
HEXA Robotic Help For Plants
Then some unknown race had chanced upon the dreamers and decided to "help them out."
Korean Tesla Model S Video 'Excelsior' Is Indeed Our Motto
'Improving man by bringing him close to Nature, while they combine the sensations of coasting with the interest of seeing the country well...'
DIY Robot Shoots You In The Face
'...there were automatic guns that fired ligamine darts.'
A Bayesian Approach to Safe Imitation Learning For AIs and Robots
Um, how about that pension for the humans who serve as the models for robot behavior?
Qoobo Headless Robotic Therapy Cat Was Anne McCaffrey's Idea
'...used as surrogates in intense dependency cases.'
Autonomous Cars Talk To Each Other At MCity
'My cars talk to one another.'
PUFFER Robots - From Philip K DIck's Second Variety?
'Across the ground something small and metallic came, flashing in the dull sunlight of midday.'
Russian Space Garden
'We saw the gardens, flooded with artificial sunlight...'
Targeted Neuroplasticity Training For 'Downloading Skills'
'I know kung-fu.'
U of M's MCity To Feature Asimov's Automatobuses
Should you turn autonomous buses off?
Crazyflie Drone Swarm Technology
'...Programmed to hang in space in a hexagonal grid pattern.'
Our GodBot, Who Art In Cyberspace
Vaal hungers! We must serve him.
easyJet Short-Haul Electric Jets
Have a little faith, will you? They're working on it.
Meet Assist-e Honda's Self-Balancing Motorcycle
'He had never ridden any motorized device that lacked onboard steering and balance systems...'
Kalashnikov's One-Seater Hovercraft
Not for windy days.
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories