Two reports propose the development of non-ablative aeroshells for braking of spacecraft entering the atmospheres of Earth, Mars, and other planets. The primary advantages of non-ablative aeroshells, relative to ablative aeroshells, results from reduced mass and increased aerodynamic stability of the aeroshell occasioned by elimination of the reactive ablative layer. A typical non-ablative aeroshell would comprise the following layers (in sequence from front to back): (1) a carbon-carbon face sheet coated with silicon carbide, (2) a hollow carbon-carbon structure like that of partitions in an egg crate, (3) a metal-coated carbon-carbon radiation plate, (4) a thermally insulating layer made of carbon aerogel, and (5) a carbon-carbon back plate.
This work was done by Gregory Hickey and Shyh-Shiuh Lih of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
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