Nanostructured Ablative Thermal Protection System
Navy SBIR FY2014.1

Sol No.: Navy SBIR FY2014.1
Topic No.: N141-080
Topic Title: Nanostructured Ablative Thermal Protection System
Proposal No.: N141-080-0686
Firm: TDA Research, Inc.
12345 W. 52nd Ave.
Wheat Ridge, Colorado 80033-1916
Contact: Michael Diener
Phone: (303) 940-2314
Web Site:
Abstract: Ablative thermal protection system (TPS) materials are widely used in spacecraft and missiles that re-enter the atmosphere. Since they constitute a significant portion of the re-entry body's mass, improving their performance could greatly reduce mission cost or increase payload. The ablative TPS in the Trident reentry vehicle is based on a char-forming composite of woven carbon fibers and phenolic resin. However, recent advances in carbon materials allow for innovative structures that make better use of the ablator's weight and volume. We are proposing to develop an altered carbon structure for phenolic-impregnated ablators that takes advantage of modern carbon materials, thereby delivering performance increases with minimal technical risk. The newer carbons will increase the mechanical stability of the ablator without increasing its density or thermal conductivity. Our proposed manufacturing process will also enable three-dimensional control over the ablator's structure, realizing additional performance benefits.
Benefits: The proposed materials and manufacturing processes will be used to make ablative thermal protection systems for re-entry bodies. Secondary applications that employ the core innovation include fire-retardant structural polymer composites and rocket nozzles. Further afield, the proposed materials' high surface area may make them appealing for catalyst supports in polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells and lightweight automotive batteries.