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Woven Thermal Protection System
Woven TPS Figure 1 Figure 1: Woven TPS

The Woven Thermal Protection System (WTPS) project explores an innovative way to design, develop and manufacture a family of ablative TPS materials using weaving technology and testing them in the arc jet to establish the viability of the concept of weaving TPS.

The woven TPS approach utilizes commercially available weaving technology, using equipment, modeling and design tools to optimize the weave. By leveraging commercially available weaving technology NASA will not be burdened with maintaining the capability or have to accept the risk for material restart.

Woven TPS is a new approach to producing TPS materials that uses precisely engineered 3D weaving techniques to customize material characteristics needed to meet specific mission’s requirements for protecting space vehicles from the intense heating generated during atmospheric entry. Using WTPS, sustainable, scalable, mission-optimized TPS solutions can be achieved with relatively low life cycle costs compared with the high costs and long development schedules currently associated with material development and certification.

WTPS leverages the mature state-of-the-art weaving technology that has evolved from the textile industry to design TPS materials with tailorable performance by varying material composition and properties via the controlled placement of fibers within a woven structure. The resulting material can be designed to perform optimally for a wide range of entry conditions encompassing NASA’s current and future mission needs. WTPS will enable optimized TPS designs to be translated precisely into mission-specific, manufactured materials that can substantially increase the efficiency, utility, and robustness of heat shield compared to the current state-of-the-art material options. By delivering improved heat shield performance and affordability, this technology will impact all future exploration missions.

Woven TPS Figure 2 Figure 2: Woven Preform architecture shows the precise placement of different yarns and the inter-weave architecture that allows Woven ablative TPS to be tailorable.

Progress to-date: 3-D Woven preforms using a variety of yarns have been manufactured and these include both constant and variable density preforms. Selected preforms have undergone resin infusion and the resulting high density, 3-D, Woven TPS has undergone preliminary testing in the arc jet.

Woven TPS Figure 3 Figure 3: Examples of 3-D Woven TPS using net shape Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) processing

In addition to resin infused systems, which are comparable to heritage Carbon-Phenolic, dry woven systems have also been arc jet tested. Dry woven TPS is a one step process and the woven preform is the TPS and does not require any additional resin infusion.

Woven TPS Figure 4 Figure 4: Pre- and Post arc jet tested 3-D resin infused, fully dense, ablative TPS