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Additively Manufactured Thermal Protection/Thermal Management System for Hypersonic Flight


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Air Platform, Materials, Space Platforms, Weapons 

OBJECTIVE: Develop an advanced manufacturing technology for constructing integrated thermal protection systems/thermal management systems for use in missiles operating in hypersonic flight conditions. 

DESCRIPTION: This topic seeks an innovative additive manufacturing technology capable of producing thermal protection/thermal management systems for hypersonic flight vehicles which could incorporate dissimilar materials and complex internal shapes such as tubes and channels. Flight vehicles operating at hypersonic speeds experience very high temperatures and very high aerodynamic drag. Temperatures can range from 3,000 degrees F to over 5,000 degrees F on the vehicle’s nose. The leading edges of wings and control surfaces experience 2,000 degrees F to 3,000 degrees F temperatures. Heat transfer from the high temperature exterior surfaces translates into high temperatures on the interior of the flight vehicle which affects the characteristics and performance of structural materials and internal systems. Additionally, the drag forces on vehicles in hypersonic flight can be thousands of pounds. These interrelated challenges must be addressed with a combination of vehicle design, high-performance materials, and innovative manufacturing technologies. 

PHASE I: Develop initial design concept; conduct analytical and experimental efforts to demonstrate a proof-of-principle. Select, design, and develop candidate materials and associated fabrication processes and model or produce/demonstrate “prototype materials” to ensure proof of the basic design concept and functionality. Produce test coupons of the materials and conduct sample scale testing for relevant material properties in ground-based hypersonic aerothermal environment. Perform a manufacturability analysis showing that the materials can be produced in reasonable quantities and at reasonable cost and yields, based on quantifiable benefits, by employing techniques suitable for scaling up. 

PHASE II: Based on the results and findings of Phase I, update/develop and optimize hypersonic Thermal Protection System (TPS) materials selection and processes and conduct detailed testing in a representative hypersonic environment. Demonstrate scalable manufacturing technology during production of the materials. Validate process repeatability and demonstrate the ability of the TPS materials to withstand the simulated aerothermodynamics heating/loading in hypersonic flight environments and to ensure reliability and structural integrity of the proposed materials. 

PHASE III: Expand on Phase II results by optimizing TPS material designs as necessary for integration into a hypersonic defense system/advanced target vehicle. Develop and execute a plan to manufacture the TPS materials developed in Phase II, and assist the transitioning this technology to the appropriate missile defense prime contractor(s) for the engineering integration and testing. Demonstrate performance of candidate materials in relevant hypersonic-type testing of component materials in association with government hypersonic flight test opportunities. Demonstration would include, but not be limited to, demonstration in a missile system or operation in a system level test-bed with insertion/transition planning for a hypersonic missile defense interceptor/target vehicle. 


1: Kehayas N., "Aerodynamically oriented thermal protection system of hypersonic vehicles," United States Provisional Patent Application Appl. No: 62146254, Filed: April 11, 2015

2:  Glass, D.E., et al., "Materials Development for Hypersonic Flight Vehicles," NASA Langley Res Center, Hampton, VA 23693, Jan 01, 2006, AIAA Paper 2006-8122,

3:  Chen, P.C., "Aerothermodynamic Optimization of Hypersonic Vehicle TPS Design by a POD/RSM-Based Approach," 44th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit, 9 - 12 January 2006, Reno, Nevada, AIAA 2006-777

4:  Basu, B., "Ultra high temperature ceramics for hypersonic space vehicles: opportunities and challenges," in "Ultra-High Temperature Ceramics: Materials for Extreme Environment Applications IV", Jon Binner, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, United Kingdom, Bill Lee, Imperial College, London, United Kingdom Eds, ECI Symposium Series, (2017),

5:  Kasen, S.D., "Thermal Management at Hypersonic Leading Edges," A dissertation presented to the faculty of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree in Doctor of Philosophy, May 2013

KEYWORDS: Heat Shielding, Hypersonic Aerospace Vehicle, Thermal Protection System, TPS, TPS Design In High Temperature, TPS And Hot Structures, TPS For Hypersonic Aerospace Vehicles, Hypersonic Aerothermodynamics Environment 

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