ULTIMATE: Metallic Thermal Protection System for Future RLV’S—Design and Performance Verification Approach 2004-01-2566
From the early beginning of space programs metallic Thermal Protection Systems (TPS) have been considered as promising technology to protect space vehicles against the severe aerodynamic heating encountered during re-entry into earth’s atmosphere.
The goal of “airplane-like” operations for future RLV’s led to a renewed interest in TPS more durable than that developed for the space shuttle orbiter. This triggered developments of metallic TPS recently performed on the X-33.
The same motivation is basis for the metallic TPS development within the frame of the German ASTRA ULTIMATE project since the thermal protection system contributes essentially to the overall mass and defines the operational cost of a space transportation system with its inspection, maintenance and repair capabilities. For these reasons the TPS dictates the overall economical operation of a future RLV.
In Europe considerable effort has been spent to investigate future RLV concepts. One of these concepts named HOPPER has been chosen for further investigations and developments. Mission analyses performed so far for HOPPER identified large areas on the outer surface with moderate maximum temperatures during re-entry into Earth atmosphere.
Nearly 80 per cent of the entire windward surface of this vehicle will experience maximum temperatures are in the range of 800 to 1200°C. Based on these boundaries HOPPER has been chosen as the reference vehicle for ULTIMATE metallic TPS development.
The objective of this paper is to describe the overall design and performance verification approach envisaged for the currently executed development phase.
This approach is subdivided in two main phases for ground and flight testing. The paper presents preparation activities, the envisaged planning and provides an overview of activities to be accomplished in the near future.