2.65-M Modular Aeroshell Production
For NASA's Langley Research Center, ARA's Ablatives Laboratory (ABL) produced a large heatshield/aeroshell that incorporates new manufacturing technology for honeycomb-packed charring ablator systems. The heatshield was produced "modularly" and consists of nine individually molded and precision-milled modules: one nose unit and eight flank units. Large-scale 5-axis CNC milling is the critical component of this new technology. High-tolerance shaped molds and finished modules – all 5-axis milled – are required for the new manufacturing approach to work. ABL's completed unit is NASA's first modular, heatshield system made from this class of honeycomb-reinforced ablator. The new processing is tailored to NASA's large suite of polymeric charring ablator materials. ABL's heatshield/aeroshell is a manufacturing development and demonstration unit (MDU) that will not be flown, but will be subjected to ground testing. Below are photos that show large heatshield/aeroshell components and sequences.
This new manufacturing technology is important to NASA for its planned, very large heatshields of future Mars exploration. Ablator honeycomb-packing using NASA's existing suite of materials is a labor intensive, time-consuming process that does not lend itself well to such large heatshield systems when monolithically-produced. Polymeric resins used in these ablators have limited pot-lives that necessitate prompt and efficient packing. And very large monolithic systems pose technician interference problems due to the large number of technicians needed for packing. The modular production approach demonstrated by the Ablatives Laboratory eliminates these and many other problems of heatshield/aeroshell production for the increased scale of Mars exploration flight systems.
ARA’s Ablatives Laboratory is a NASA-dedicated facility focused on technology advancements for thermal protection systems (TPS) such as planetary... more
Research, development and manufacturing of ablative heatshields and thermal protection systems for entry and launch vehicles, and missile systems... more