Through the proposed NASA STTR, NanoSonic and Virginia Tech will design and empirically optimize an innovative, commercially scalable additive manufacturing process integrating reactively deposited HybridSil polyimide nanocomposites for next-generation Thermal Protection Systems (TPS) employed on human rated spacecraft. NanoSonic’s material technology and Virginia Tech’s additive manufacturing expertise will be synergistically combined to provide NASA with a pioneering additive manufacturing process and high temperature, high char yield material that drastically reduces the fabrication and installation cost of current TPS ensembles while also reducing seam density. The proposed additive manufacturing technology will be directly based on fused filament fabrication (FFF) and have near-term scalability within Virginia Tech’s large-scale automated additive manufacturing robotic assembly, which has 6 degrees of freedom and a current capability of generating MatEx produced structures on the order of ~8 x 8 x 8 feet. The proposed additive manufacturing technique and materials will be molecularly engineered and iteratively developed to produce next-generation ablative heat shield components with equivalent utility as currently employed polymer infused carbon ablative tiles such as PICA and PICA-X. The long-term value proposition to NASA and space industry market will be significantly reduced TPS installation cost, improved heat shield performance, and highly adaptable, seamless spacecraft integration.
NASA applications include integration within heat shield structures employed within current and future human rated spacecraft.
Broand secondary non-NASA applications include use as low-cost additively manufactured high temperature insulative components and structures within aerospace, marine, and land vehicles within military and civilian platforms.