Woven thermal protection system (WTPS) is a new approach to producing TPS materials that uses precisely engineered 3D weaving techniques to customize material characteristics needed to meet specific missions 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 lifecycle costs compared with the high costs and long development schedules currently associated with material development and certification. WTPS leverages the mature 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.

WTPS customizes material properties and performance by the accurate placement of fibers of different compositions and with different spacings using commercially available weaving technology, and by using modeling, design, and manufacturing tools to optimize the weave for overall improved performance.

WTPS is applicable to the entire TPS operation spectrum (insulative materials such as silica and ablative materials such as carbon phenolic can all be woven). WTPS transforms what is currently a high-cost, long-schedule mission constraint into a flexible component that supports a broad range of mission concepts and designs, reducing lifecycle costs.

This work was done by Ethiraj Venkatapathy, Donald Ellerby, and Mairead Stackpoole of Ames Research Center; Jay Feldman of Engineering Research and Consulting, Inc.; and Curt Wilkinson of Bally Ribbon Mills. NASA invites companies to inquire about licensing possibilities for this technology for commercial applications. Contact the Ames Technology Partnerships Office at 1-855-627-2249 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Refer to ARC-16797-1.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the February, 2015 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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