Selection and Certification of TPS: Constraints and Considerations of Venus Missions

Thumbnail Image
Laub, Bernard
Venkatapathy, Ethiraj
Allen, G. A.
Hartman, G. J.
Arnold, J. O.
Wright, Michael J.
Associated Organization(s)
Supplementary to
The science community currently has interest in planetary entry probe missions to improve our understanding of the atmosphere of Saturn [1], missions to Venus and also sample return missions from comets and asteroids. In addition, the In-Space Propulsion Program has completed aerocapture mission design studies that have defined the requirements for the Thermal protection System (TPS) to Venus, Mars, Titan and Neptune. There have been investments in new TPS materials and to revive flight qualified materials such as PICA (used on Stardust and currently baselined for MSL and Orion) and Carbon-Phenolic, the TPS material of choice for Venus and Outer Planet missions. Mission studies have shown the heating rates for the "shallow" Saturn probes are in the range of (2 - 5) KW/cm2 in its H(2)/He atmosphere. Venus entry probes will experience heat fluxes in the similar range of (3 - 7) kW/cm(2) in CO2. High-speed Earth reentry missions from comets and asteroids will experience heating of the range of (1 - 5) kW/cm(2) and at pressures equal to or higher than Stardust. Aerocapture during Venus missions will experience heat fluxes in the range of (2 - 4) kW/cm(2) in CO2. Titan aero-capture missions will experience far smaller heating fluxes in the N2/methane atmosphere. Since the flight times are longer during aerocapture missions, TPS design requirements involve much larger heatloads at relatively lower heat-fluxes compared to those for direct entry probe missions. It is clear that qualification and certification of the heritage ablative materials or the development of new, ablative Thermal Protection System (TPS) materials for entry or aerocapture probe missions is needed [2] and the challenges are in testing, especially in the appropriate atmospheric gases. NASA Ames has nearly completed the construction of a small, low cost, 5 MW arc jet facility, called the Development Arcjet Facility (DAF) that will permit testing of small models at high heat fluxes and in different gases. This paper will review the entry conditions from a collection of mission studies to various solar system destinations, the testing needs of both newer as well as heritage TPS for each destination and provide the approach, we at NASA Ames plan to adopt, in testing and analysis by making use of both existing arc jet facilities as well as an affordable, small 5 MW arc jet that can be used for TPS development in test gases appropriate for the Neptune, Titan, Saturn, Venus or Earth applications. [1] Atreya, S. K., et. al. "Formation of Giant Planets and Their Atmospheres: Entry Probes for Saturn and Beyond; 5 th International Planetary Probe Workshop, June 25-29, Bordeaux, France. [2] Venkatapathy, E. and Laub, B. "Requirements for Development of Thermal Protection Systems for Multiple Missions: 5th International Planetary Probe Workshop, June 25-29, Bordeaux, France.
NASA In-Space Propulsion Program
Date Issued
Resource Type
Resource Subtype
Rights Statement
Rights URI