Structurally Integrated Thermal Protection System (SITPS)
An Armstrong research team has combined high-temperature insulative and advanced composite materials in a unique design to protect aerospace vehicles from both the high aerodynamic loads as well as high temperatures generated by reentry from space. This dual-purpose sandwich panel design carries both thermal and mechanical loads and increases the operational efficiency of hypersonic vehicle aeroshells. Conventional multi-use hypersonic vehicles typically use non-load-bearing insulation systems to thermally protect the vehicle while using an internal skeleton to bear the mechanical loads. The Armstrong-developed SITPS offers a combined advanced thermal protection system that is both structurally and volumetrically efficient. It uses high-temperature, ceramic-matrix composite and lightweight insulation materials. Incorporating the insulation within a more robust sandwich panel could significantly reduce the operational costs for preparing a vehicle for its next mission.
Work to date: The team developed the materials and process to fabricate a 20x36-inch concept panel for a specific core design and mechanically tested it in a laboratory using three separate methods. The team also has developed a material database of SITPS strength
and thermal performance characteristics. In addition, the team examined alternate sandwich core designs to increase the overall thermal and mechanical performance of the concept panels.
Looking ahead: Next steps involve developing panel closeouts and panel-to-panel joints in addition to manufacturing curved SITPS panels.
NASA partners: Langley Research Center and Glenn Research Center
Robust: Increases durability of the TPS, thereby decreasing maintenance time
Strong: Offers higher structural efficiency
Efficient: Permits the reduction of vehicle mass with its combination of thermal and load-bearing capabilities
Multi-use hypersonic vehicles
Aircraft exhaust-washed structures
Hypersonics and Space Technologies
Akey objective of hypersonic research at NASA is to develop methods and tools that adequately model fundamental physics and allow credible physics-based optimization for future operational hypersonic vehicle systems. Research focuses on solving some of the most difficult challenges in hypersonic flight, and Armstrong innovators are contributing to this research in several ways:
- Exploring adaptive guidance systems that could detect conditions likely to result in dangerous situations and automate compensating maneuvers
- Modeling high-altitude environments to improve flight planning designs for high-speed vehicles
- Designing high-temperature insulative and advanced composite materials
This research will enable the development of highly reliable and efficient hypersonic systems.