NASA Crew Exploration Vehicle, Thermal Protection System, Lessons Learned
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The Orion (CEV) thermal protection system (TPS) advanced development project (ADP) was initiated in late 2006 to reduce developmental risk by significant investment in multiple heat shield architectural solutions that can meet the needs both the Low Earth orbit (LEO) and Lunar return missions. At the same time, the CEV TPS ADP was also charged with developing a preliminary design for the heat shield to meet the PDR requirement and at the time of the PDR, transfer the design to Lockheed- Martin, the prime contractor. We reported on the developmental activities of the first 18 months at the IPPW5 in Bordeaux, France, last summer. In June 08, at the time of the IPPW6, the CEV TPS ADP would have nearly completed the preparation for the Orion PDR and would be close to the original three-year mark. We plan to report on the progress at the Atlanta workshop. In the past year, Orion TPS ADP investment in TPS Technology, especially in PICA ablative Heat-shield design, development, testing and engineering (DDT&E) has paid off in enabling MSL mission to switch from SLA 561 V heat shield to PICA heat shield. CEV TPS ADP considered SLA 561 V as a candidate for LEO missions and our testing identified failure modes in SLA and as a result, we dropped SLA for further evaluation. This close synergy between two projects is a highly visible example of how investment in technology areas can and does benefit multiple missions. In addition, CEV TPS ADP has been able to revive the Apollo ablative system namely AVCOAT honeycomb architecture as an alternate to the baseline PICA architecture and we plan to report the progress we have made in AVCOAT. CEV TPS ADP has invested considerable resources in developing analytical models for PICA and AVCOAT, material property measurements that is essential to the design of the heat-shield, in arcjet testing, in understanding the differences between different arc jet facilities, namely NASA Ames, NASA JSC and Air Force's AEDC, and in Non-Destructive Evaluation (NDE), and in integration of and manufacturing heat shield as a system. The capabilities of the two heat shield systems including failure modes via testing and analysis, once established, can serve the Probe Community and future mission designers to inner and outer planetary exploration very well. For example, missions to Venus, Mars and Titan can use either one of the system by selecting the mission design parameters that utilizes the full characteristics of these system to make use of system efficiency that will result in reduced heat shield mass, system robustness that will enhance mission success and cost. We plan to present significant progresses of the past three years and highlight the significant contributions CEV TPS ADP Project has made to advance the state of the art in Thermal Protection System technology that has and will continue to benefit future entry probe missions.