As the aerospace industry evolves with a renewed focus on space travel, there is a growing need for innovation in the area of thermal protective systems (TPS). Even as older systems are refined for viability, new systems must be carefully engineered to meet the demands of new atmospheres and multi-launch vehicles.
Developing such new technologies is far from easy given that aerospace requirements are necessarily stringent. Complying with industry regulations often means identifying new manufacturing techniques that push beyond current capabilities to find solutions that are safer and more practical.
As interest in space travel grows once more, Tex Tech is leading the push for customized hybrid TPS systems to protect vessels from re-entry heating.
How to Prevent the Dangers of Re-Entry Heating
Re-entry has always been one of the most challenging aspects of space flight. As an object falls through the earth’s atmosphere, it experiences intense friction. Compound that friction with a fast re-entry speed and a spacecraft can experience temperatures of >3,000° F as the air around it compresses into plasma. A TPS protects astronauts and internal equipment from these extreme temperatures.
There is no single thermal protective system design that accounts for all flight variables, but all systems will include a lightweight heat shield that dissipates the heat while insulating the occupants. A well-designed TPS reflects most of the heat back into the atmosphere or sheds it away from the vehicle, preventing any damage to the interior of the craft.
Advances in material engineering have led to the development of many different synthetic materials to perform this job, each varying in weight and temperature resistance capabilities. Selecting the best materials for a heat shield or TPS requires a careful evaluation of applicable heat zones, heat fluxes, and mechanical forces that will be present during re-entry.
In most cases, a curated selection of multiple materials will be necessary since the forces experienced during re-entry are not uniform. The nose of the craft, for instance, experiences substantially more heat and pressure, so the material selected for that region must withstand higher temperatures.
Types of TPS Materials
Tex Tech specializes in the manufacture of flexible, graded TPS structures. For each project, we assess the performance requirements carefully to select an appropriate combination of TPS materials from the following:
- Needle-punched felt
- Woven fabrics
- 3D woven/braided fabrics
- 5D assemblies
- Unidirectional tows reinforcement
- Hybrid fabrics
Current TPS Products
Our standard TPS offerings include stabilized ablative insulation felt (SAIF) and infused stabilized ablative insulation felt (iSAIF). SAIF products feature an insulative felt structure that is stabilized with a high-char yield silicone. As composites, SAIF fabrics offer higher erosion resistance and higher performance, and they can be customized to meet more specific requirements.
The iSAIF version is available with a fully infused surface layer ranging from 0.010″ to 0.150″ deep, with standard options of 0.030″ and 0.100″. Infusing a surface layer creates a dense composite char layer that enhances both durability and thermal protection, making iSAIF an excellent option for multi-flight protection.
Strong, non-respirable amorphous silica felts and fabrics are also available for certain applications. The future of safe space travel depends on effective TPS material design, so we take care to remain fully up-to-date on all of the advances in TPS engineering. Tex Tech works hard to source the most cutting-edge fibers and insulators as they are developed or reintroduced.
Custom Thermal Protective Systems by Tex Tech
Tex Tech serves high quality coated and laminated products to a wide range of industries, including not only aerospace and defense clients, but also industrial and medical customers. Our expertise lies in performance coatings, applied in solvent, aqueous, or solid form using a variety of techniques:
- Direct application (including knife-over-roll, knife-over-table, and knife-over-air)
- Immersion (dip coating)
- Reverse roll coating
- Heat lamination
- Adhesive lamination
- Transfer coating
Our diverse industry experience and broad manufacturing capabilities allow us to supply all varieties of cutting-edge materials, including those that align with rigorous aerospace requirements.
For more comprehensive information about Tex Tech’s hybrid TPS technologies, download our Aerospace and Thermal Protective Systems eBook, or contact us with specific questions.