Wireless Multinodal Thermal Protection System
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A spacecraft entering an atmosphere must have a thermal protection system (TPS) able to withstand the extreme heat developed during entry. The entry environment is extremely difficult to model and analyze. To better understand the conditions during entry and the performance of TPS, the University of Idaho and NASA Ames have developed a wireless sensor system that can be integrated into the TPS of entry vehicles. In the past, it has been difficult to place sensors in the TPS of these vehicles due to the complications, mass, and risk of the wired sensors. A wireless sensor system would help reduce the wiring complexities and risk associated with the sensors, thereby allowing a comprehensive sensor suite to be integrated into the TPS material. The data gathered from such a system would be instrumental in developing a more accurate model of the entry environment and the performance of the TPS, including mass loss. With a greater understanding of these conditions the TPS of future missions could be made safer and lead to a reduced TPS mass fraction. The University of Idaho senior design team Thermal Exposure has designed a prototype wireless sensor system that has undergone extensive testing in the NASA Ames' X-Jet facility. To demonstrate the robustness and modularity of the design, the wireless sensor system was prepared for a flight on a high altitude balloon during which capsule and atmospheric pressure and temperature measurements were made.