JBE proposes to test new material candidates that exhibit desirable material characteristics to provide areas for improvement in future Deployable Hypersonic Inflatable Atmospheric Decelerator (HIAD) construction. These areas of improvement include a reduced weight, reduced volume, improved handling characteristics, increased optimizability and improved thermal capability. A ground testing campaign to develop more advanced HIAD subsystems is critical to accelerate the development of HIAD technology to meet new and exciting missions including manned missions to Mars. One material candidate is an Opacified Fibrous Insulation (OFI) which can be manufactured much thinner than the current Gen-2 HIAD insulators. Phase I development will be focused on establishing the feasibility of manufacturing improved HIAD configurations by fabricating and testing component and subsystem samples. Component testing includes sewing insulator samples and testing them for their seam strength. Subsystem testing includes fabricating a representative area of the improved FTPS configuration, packing it into a volume constrained fixture, compressing the sample with a ram, and evaluating the sample for damage.
Deployable decelerator technology will increase mission capabilities for Mars and beyond. HIAD is considered a key technology for human rated Mars Entry Descent and Landing (EDL). The materials developed in this Phase 1 work could lead to a development of a Gen-3 HIAD FTPS that can handle higher heat loads and/or pack to a smaller volume. Applications include Mars, Venus, Titan, as well as payload return to Earth from LEO. HEOMD, STMD, and SMD can benefit from this technology for various exploration missions.
Methods to reuse spacecraft hardware are currently being developed by many companies including ULA, SpaceX, Blue Origin and Rocket Lab. In EDL areas where the hardware is flying at hypersonic velocities, a HIAD could be a key decelerator technology. This Phase I effort could provide more HIAD design options and expand the mission capability for these companies.