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Development of a Flexible Thermal Protection System for Deployable Inflatable Heatshields and Hypersonic Decelerators

Programme Reference
Prime Contractor
Start Date
End Date
United Kingdom

To define and characterise a Flexible Thermal Protection System with stowage, deployment and stiffening capabilities suited for deployable and/or inflatable hypersonic heatshield systems

Deployable and inflatable heatshield concepts have a very high potential to extend European capabilities for future Martian lander missions. Such concepts would allow to approach landing zones in the Martian highlands which cannot be reached with current state-of-the-art entry, descent and landing (EDL) technology, mainly due to the very low density of the Martian atmosphere. Alternatively, a deployable or inflatable heatshield concept could allow for an increased landed mass in the Martian lowlands. ;
In addition, deployable and inflatable heatshield concepts can be adapted for various other destinations, like Earth (e.g. payload return from ISS), Venus or Titan, or basically any destination with an atmosphere. They can be used for aerocapture or as part of an integrated EDL system. ;
The outcome of a previous TRP activity, T921-005MT Deployable amp; Inflatable Heatshield amp; Hypersonic Decelerator Concepts, confirmed that the driving enabling technology for deployable and inflatable heatshield concepts is the flexible thermal protection system (F-TPS). Such a F-TPS needs to be sufficiently flexible to be folded, compacted and stowed into small volumes during launch and cruise, while building a sufficiently stiff heatshield after deployment. Further, the F-TPS needs to be based on a careful selection and combination of materials to be able to withstand the harsh aerothermodynamic entry environment while complying with mass limitations. ;;Within this activity a F-TPS shall be developed for a deployable and/or inflatable heatshield system able to fulfill the requirements of a selected reference mission. This shall take into account the conceptual design derived in the previous TRP activities T921-005MT ?Deployable amp; Inflatable Heatshield amp; Hypersonic Decelerator Concepts?. To the extend relevant results may also be used from T418-314MP ?Aerothermodynamics Tools for Inflatable Hypersonic Decelerators?. ;
This activity encompasses the following tasks : ;
- flexible TPS concept definition and requirements specification for various type of missions/destinations, ;
- material selection,
- manufacturing process definition (including relevant joining techniques), ;
- characterization amp; plasma testing at sample level,
- breadboard definition, building and testing to demonstrate the stowage, deployment and stiffening capabilities.
Application Domain
Generic Technologies
Technology Domain
15 - Mechanisms
18 - Fluid Dynamics
20 - Structures
21 - Thermal
24 - Materials and Manufacturing Processes
Competence Domain
2-Structures, Mechanisms, Materials, Thermal
Initial TRL
Target TRL
Achieved TRL
Public Document