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Lightweight Structural Metamaterials for Second and Third Stage Rocket Motors


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Weapons, Weapons, Space Platforms, Space Platforms

OBJECTIVE: Develop structural metamaterials to improve technology readiness levels of constituent technologies essential to a high capacity future interceptor.

DESCRIPTION: This topic seeks to develop lightweight structural metamaterials for second and third stage rocket motors that are able to withstand the mechanical and thermal stresses of terminal missile defense maneuvers.Modern missile defense forces are expected to confront large raids of ballistic, non-ballistic/high Mach, and strategic cruise missiles in the near to mid timeframe.To gain the advantage over the threat, missile defense assets will require a compact, highly agile, high loadout interceptor for the terminal defense segment that is capable of very high axial and lateral accelerations.MAX phase materials are metallic ceramics known for combining favorable mechanical properties such as good machinability and high elastic stiffness with good thermal shock resistance, low thermal expansion coefficients, and rigidity at high temperature.MAX phase composite metamaterials may prove effective as low-density, lightweight structures, for rocket motor casings, combustion chambers, nozzles, and control surfaces.Candidate solutions should demonstrate the feasibility of rocket motor components that meet the following technical goals:- Half the weight (or less) of components made from traditional steel alloys. - Operates at high temperatures, up to 1400°C. - Withstands very large axial and lateral accelerations. - Maintains rigidity and structure during variable thrust or multiple pulse operations. - Demonstrates self-healing characteristics.

PHASE I: For candidate solutions, conduct a concept definition for advanced rocket motor components, to include a proof-of-principle study, design of notional components, and predicted technical performance of notional components. Technical performance parameters should include maximum thermal and mechanical tolerances.

PHASE II: For candidate solutions, develop and execute an incremental test and evaluation plan that will mature the constituent technologies and produce a prototype for assessment based on the design proposed in Phase I.

PHASE III: For candidate solutions, investigate applications of prototype components from Phase II for use in economical, reusable space launch vehicles in addition to missile defense interceptors.

KEYWORDS: MAX Phases, Metalized Ceramics, Advanced Rocket Motors, Metamaterial


1. Barsoum, M. W. (2013) “MAX Phases: Properties of Machinable Ternary Carbides and Nitrides.” Wiley‐VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA.2. Farle, A et al. 2016. “Demonstrating the self-healing behavior of some selected ceramics under combustion chamber conditions,” Smart Mater. Struct. 25 084019.3. Gilbert, C.J. et al. 1999. “Fatigue-Crack Growth and Fracture Properties of Coarse and Fine-Grained Ti3SiC2,” Scripta mater. 42 (2000) 761-767.4. Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Fact Sheet:

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