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Improving Heat Shields for Atmospheric Entry: Numerical and Experimental Investigations for Modeling Ablative Thermal Protection System Surface Degradation Effects on Near-Wall Flow HEOMD, SMD, STMD/LaRC, GSFC, MSFC, ARC, JSC, University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University

University of Kentucky heat shield researchers modeled atmospheric re-entry and material response characteristics of the Stardust Return Sample Capsule, a NASA spacecraft that returned samples from comet Wild 2 to Earth after a seven-year mission. The re-entry of Stardust is to this day the fastest man-made object to ever enter Earth’s atmosphere, at roughly 12 km/s. Credit: Huaibao Zhang and Alexandre Martin

Research is underway at two Kentucky universities to study and improve the performance of heat shield materials that enable spacecraft to survive extreme temperatures of atmospheric entry. The project titled Improving Heat Shields for Atmospheric Entry: Numerical and Experimental tInvestigations for Modeling Ablative Thermal Protection System Surface Degradation Effects on Near-Wall Flow is uncovering knowledge of fluid dynamics needed to advance technology of thermal protection systems, also known as heat shields, for spacecraft that travel from Earth and enter the atmosphere of other planets, like Mars, or that go to space and return to Earth, such as astronaut crew vehicles. This project uses an approach of numerical modeling combined with experimentation to develop computer simulation capability that is optimized and validated with heat shield performance measurements conducted under simulated atmospheric entry conditions in a high-temperature arc-jet facility. Researchers at the University of Kentucky and Kentucky

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NASA EPSCoR Stimuli 2014 -15

State University collaborating with multiple NASA Centers (Ames, Langley, and Johnson) have conducted test campaigns with the NASA Langley HYMETS (Hypersonic Materials Environmental Test System) arc-jet facility in which FiberForm heat shield materials were subjected to high temperature heat flux in a Mach 5 airflow. Multiple journal and conference publications have resulted. The material response (MR) code developed as part of this project is being used to investigate NASA test articles and performance of full-scale thermal protection systems, including for NASA’s new crew vehicle Orion. GPU-processing techniques developed to run the code are advancing computer science programs at both participating Kentucky universities. Kentucky students who have completed or are on track to complete bachelor and graduate degrees have benefitted from technical skills gained in this research program and opportunities to conduct unique research in-state as well as at NASA facilities, such as Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

Dr. Alexandre Martin, Science PI

Dr. David J. Chato, NASA Technical Monitor

EPSCoR Stimuli 2014-15  

NASA Office of Education’s Aerospace Research & Career Development (ARCD) is pleased to release NASA EPSCoR Stimuli, a collection of univers...

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