Innovative Thermal Management Concepts and Material Solutions for Future Space Vehicles

Ortona, Alberto and Gianella, Sandro and Burkard, Esser and Barcena, Jorge (2016) Innovative Thermal Management Concepts and Material Solutions for Future Space Vehicles. Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets. ISSN 0022-4650

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When entering a planetary atmosphere, space vehicles are exposed to extreme thermal loads. To protect the vehicle’s interior, a thermal protection system is required. Future aerospace transportation demands solutions that exceed the performance of current systems and up-to-date material limits. Therefore, new and disruptive solutions must be envisaged to meet those extreme conditions. In the search of new solutions for sharp leading edges of future hypersonic reentry or transport vehicles, the THOR project, composed of eight European organizations (industries, research centers, and universities) and one Japanese Agency (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), is actively working on definition, design, implementation, and simulation of new passive and active thermal management solutions and their verification in relevant environments (high-enthalpy facilities). This paper provides an overview of the recent developments on the four concepts that are targeted in the project, applying different physical methodologies: 1) passive cooling using highly conductive carbon-based fibers, 2) passive cooling with intensive internal radiative exchange, 3) active cooling based on convection heat transfer using a ceramic sandwich/thermal protection system with ceramic foams/lattices, and 4) active transpiration cooling of external surfaces. Details on these thermal management concepts, requirements from end users, and test configurations, as well as results from experimental and numerical verification, are given.

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