Thermal protection technologies based on ablators and segmented ceramic heat shields have been developed in Europe with the last two decades. The successful re-entry flights of HUYGENS, ARD and MIRKA indicate the progress achieved up to now.
To stimulate the identification and assessment of novel alternatives to conventional thermal protection materials and constructions an exploratory study on Smart TPS has been launched by ESA. This new point-of-view in the field of winged re-entry and launcher technology resulted initially in 35 ideas. Subsequent concept drafting reduced this number to 11 feasible concepts and a few further developments put on a technology watch list.
This paper presents an overview and brief discussion of the most relevant Smart TPS materials and concepts identified and elaborated in this exploratory activity which will be completed by some breadboard testing.