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Material and Manufacturing Technology Solutions for Advanced Composite Cases for Tactical Solid Rocket Motor Applications


OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Advanced Materials; Hypersonics


The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.


OBJECTIVE: Develop advanced material and manufacturing composite case technologies for high supersonic and hypersonic air, land, and sea launched missile systems.


DESCRIPTION: The Navy currently employs tactical missile polymer composite motor case structures that are moderately lightweight and thick walled to meet pressure containment, but they are generally relegated to surface launched systems [Ref 1]. Evolving capability gaps require significant improvements to current state-of-the-art composite cases, including lighter composite case, greater damage tolerance, external thermal protection, and external attachments/joints. These advanced composites need to develop technologies and databases that will allow integration onto naval aircraft, as no current composite case rocket motors are used on naval aircraft despite previous efforts.


Key Technology Goals:

1. Environments include: platform loads (platform vibration, eject shock, etc.), flight loads, aerothermal environments, internal heating environments, rain/salt, fog/humidity, lightning/E^3, lifecycle packaging, handling, storage, and transportation (PHS&T), etc.

2. Reduce mass from traditional filament wound graphite/epoxy composite technology by 10% threshold (THR)/30% objective (OBJ). May include mass savings from advanced internal insulation, novel attachment/fitting designs, alternate polymer composite materials and manufacturing methods, and new thermal protection materials.

3. Support ability to incorporate nonsymmetrical features and attachments onto safety critical pressure vessels that contain high-pressure gases (up to 3,000 psi) up to 6500 °R in temperature.

4. Strong preference to support aircraft carry and launch environments. Navy tactical weapons incorporate rails or lugs on rocket motor segments, therefore the composite structures and attachments must withstand high g-loads and fatigue in temperature and moisture extremes.

5. Impact and handling tolerance or provide indication and/or warning when critical flaw size is exceeded. Navy requires composite structures meet MIL-M-8856B “barely visible impact damage” [(Ref 4] and still have 100% structural capability. Composite structures must withstand pressure loads, flight loads, and captive carry loads with such damage.

6. Provide path to B-basis and A-basis material properties under relevant material architecture, application load environments, and material knockdown (e.g., hot-wet) environments, within 1 year after achieving Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 5. It is desirable to have S-basis properties at TRL-4 level maturity.

7. Support rapid development cycles (can start with TRL-3 technology, but must show path to support a < 2 year tactical composite case development cycle, after maturation).


PHASE I: Develop an advanced composite case concept relative to 10 in. (25.4 cm) diameter air-launched missile airframe structures that serve as rocket motor combustion chamber pressure vessels during missile operation and solid propellant storage vessels during the rocket motor lifecycle. Outline compliance to the Key Technology Goals listed above including advanced materials and manufacturing methods. Identify key technology risks and perform initial feasibility testing and/or analysis of high-risk areas to develop risk reduction plans. Prepare a report to the Navy on designs and simulations and a Phase II testing plan. The Phase I effort will include prototype plans to be developed under Phase II.


PHASE II: Demonstrate feasibility and capability of the selected technologies for application in a 10 in. (25.4 cm) diameter tactical missile rocket motor/airframe application. These demonstrations can include analysis, laboratory, subscale composite test item build/test, and rocket motor composite case or case simulant build/test activities.


Activities shall be scoped to mature selected innovative material/manufacturing solutions to at least a TRL of 4 (component validation in a laboratory environment), for implementation in future high-speed tactical missile rocket motor/airframe applications. Demonstration to a TRL-5 (component demonstration in relevant environment) or above is preferred. Demonstrate prototype of the applied material/manufacturing solutions to demonstrate compliance to the Key Technical Goals. A final report will be provided to the Navy that outlines the prototype design, fabrication, and testing. The report will also outline the low maturing aspects of the technology and provide a plan to further mature the technology in Phase III.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Demonstrate scalability of the selected technologies in a relevant production environment, Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) 5. Demonstrate prototype integration of the technology into a complete missile system.


Rocket motors are proliferating in the private sector to launch satellites into earth’s orbit. NASA and some aerospace companies are pushing the limit of high-velocity atmospheric flight. Composites offer low weight for efficiency, but require special attention to be suitable for these uses. Technology developed in this SBIR topic has the potential to improve composite performance in these extreme environments. Furthermore, composites in general are weak when struck through the thickness, that is, impact damage. Solutions in this topic could affect not only the aerospace industry, but also automobiles, boats, wind energy, sporting goods, and some drilling/mining operations.



  1. Fischer, M.J.; Moore, T.L.; Hoffman, H.J. and Drewry, D.G. “Composite Rocket Motor Case Technology for Tactical Missiles, (Report No. CPTR 77).” Chemical Propulsion Information Agency.
  2. Sutton, G. and Biblarz, O. “Rocket propulsion elements (7th ed. 542).” John Wiley& Sons. Inc., 2001
  3. Chase, M. and Thorp, G. P. “Solid rocket case design.” American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Vol.170, 1996.
  4. “MIL-M-8856B: Military Specification: Missiles, guided, structural integrity general specification for, 22 October 1990.” Department of Defense, Naval Air Engineering Center.
  5. “MIL-STD-8591: Department of Defense design criteria: Standard airborne stores, suspension equipment and aircraft-store interface (carriage phase), 12 December 2005. Department of Defense, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division.
  6. “MIL-STD-464: Department of Defense interface standard: Electromagnetic environmental effects requirements for systems, 18 March 1997.” Department of Defense.


KEYWORDS: Composites; rocket motors; hypersonic; impact damage; thermal protection; missile attachments


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