N.C.S.R. "Demokritos"


Department of Materials Science

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Hybrid engineering materials for spacecraft protection

Spacecraft entering a planetary atmosphere at very high speeds experience plasma-level surface temperatures as a result of friction with the atmosphere. The incident heat fluxes depend on the conditions (shape, speed, atmosphere etc) and can reach up to 30MW/m2, giving, over a transit time of up to 20-30 seconds, a total heat load of up to 700MJ/m2. Since no engineering material can sustain such heat fluxes, ablative thermomechanical protection systems (TPS) are used, made of carbon-phenolic composites, sometimes incorporating silicon. But these suffer from ablation-induced irregular surface recession and do not offer any protection against high-speed particulate impact. To address these limitations, we are currently developing 2 new types of TPS, with European Space Agency support. First, a “HybridTPS” composite made of a porous MgO-ceramic (made by SHS) filled with a phenolic ablator, which offers impact protection as well as almost no recession. Proof of concept has been completed and current work centres on enhancing the ablative heat-dissipation properties. A recent system under development, is the “BioPICA”, is a phenolic filled-carbon structure made by Microwave-assisted pyrolysis of wood.

Department of Materials Science, N.C.S.R. "Demokritos", 153 10 Aghia Paraskevi, Attiki, phone: +30 210 6503381, fax: +30 210 6519430
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