Ceramic-based Thermal Protection Systems (TPS) are ideally suited for protecting spacecraft and crew from high temperature propellant gases and heating from solar radiation. In addition, ceramic based Thermal Barrier Coatings (TBC) are being applied to rocket engine components such as combustion chambers, injector face plates, and nozzle extensions to allow higher temperature propellants to be used, which results in increased performance. Similar TPS/TBC applications can be proposed for space habitat structures, CubeSats, and satellites for thermal management against solar radiation heating. All of these systems reply on the low thermal conductivity and emissive properties of the ceramic topcoat to minimize heat transfer. However because of the thermal expansion mismatch between the ceramic topcoat and underlying metallic structure, special care must be taken during joining. Geo-Plasma has developed innovative Additive Manufacturing (AM) techniques that allow the gradual transition from a metallic substrate to the low thermal conductivity ceramic topcoat. This graded composition allows the joining of materials with large thermal expansion mismatch by eliminating the concentration of thermal induced stresses at a planar bond joint. To optimize the use of these materials for spacecrafts such as the Orion crew capsule, Exploration Upper Stage (EUS), space habitats, satellites, and CubeSats for extended duration missions, the effect of the space environment on these advanced coating systems must be determined. Therefore, Geo-Plasma proposes to develop advanced thermal protection coatings using these advanced AM methods, and then use the MISSE-FF to test the coatings in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
Potential NASA applications for this technology developed through Phase II include protection of humans and electronics in aerospace transportation vehicles, space transportation vehicles, large space structures, such as space stations, orbiters, landing vehicles, rovers, habitats, and nuclear propulsion.
Potential non-NASA customers include SpaceX, Boeing, Orbital-ATK, Lockheed, Bigelow Aerospace and other aerospace companies. In addition to aerospace markets, this technology can be leveraged across broader government and commercial applications for power generation, medical, electronics, and corrosion/thermal protection coatings.