Thermal Protection with Ablative Aromatic Thermosetting Copolyester Composites
Navy SBIR FY2014.1

Sol No.: Navy SBIR FY2014.1
Topic No.: N141-080
Topic Title: Thermal Protection with Ablative Aromatic Thermosetting Copolyester Composites
Proposal No.: N141-080-0076
Firm: CU Aerospace
301 North Neil St.
Suite 400
Champaign, Illinois 61820-3169
Contact: Chris Mangun
Phone: (217) 239-1704
Web Site:
Abstract: The primary objective of CU Aerospace's (CUA) Phase I work will be to fabricate and test aromatic thermosetting copolyester (ATSP) composites for use as ablative thermal protection systems for next generation reentry bodies. Unfortunately, there has been little work put into the development of improved ablative materials over the last 30 years, most of the current TPS are based on "new" designs using the same heritage materials (some of which are no longer being manufactured). The synthetic development of novel ATSP was a major innovation in the field of polymer science. Only recently has this material been considered as a viable ablative due to its high temperature stability and excellent composite mechanical properties especially due to the liquid crystalline nature of the polymer, which allows a matching of CTE between fiber and matrix to diminish residual stresses. CUA will carry out a systematic study of the mechanical/thermal properties of ATSP composites and our major aerospace team partner will provide plasma jet testing for this project along with data analysis and evaluation against current ablative materials including carbon/phenolic.
Benefits: The potential applications for this research include ablative materials for reentry bodies such as missile nose cones and commercial/NASA space vehicles. In addition, advanced fiber reinforced polymeric composites are ubiquitous to almost all aerospace systems for both aircraft and spacecraft as they provide a high strength-to-weight ratio, can be formed into complex structures, and are durable in harsh environments. There is a broad market for high strength, high modulus composites for high performance aerospace structures for which we believe the ATSP materials can capture a significant market share. CUA long-term strategic plans are to leverage our development efforts to foster spin-off technologies in related industries. For example, the ATSP would be ideal as a high temperature adhesive and could also be used as structural foams with outstanding flame resistance. An attractive feature of this technology is the potential for recycling, which is unique for a thermosetting polymer matrix.