The development of next-generation thermal protection systems (TPSs) is a critical focus for NASA as they spearhead the advancement of fabrication techniques for 3D woven TPSs, which demonstrate thermal-mechanical properties superior to those of traditional technologies. While the 3MDCP WTPS material system has been recently selected for use in the Mars Sample Return (MSR) Earth Entry Vehicle and MSR Sample Return Landers, widespread application of the technology is hindered by a lack of understanding of the impact of loom manufacturing processes on the resulting woven products’ performance.
ATA has advanced the state of the art for WTPS analysis by demonstrating a novel numerical framework that determines as-woven WTPS properties from composite models with realized yarn geometry and damage predicted directly from loom processes. The technology, called the Loom-to-Weave (L2W) toolset, consists of three critical steps: (1) explicit modeling of the weaving process to predict physical properties of the preform, (2) estimation of yarn damage from contact loadings output by the weaving model, and (3) prediction of material system performance via testing of a representative volume element of the matrix-infused composite created from the woven preform.
ATA proposes to further the development of the L2W analytical toolset by improving implemented modeling techniques for the 3D weaving process, executing a test program in partnership with 3DWC manufacturers with results to be used in model calibration and blind validation, extending the technology to model forming processes used in aero-shell creation, and productizing the method via integration with ATA’s COMPAS material characterization software. The result will be vetted WTPS analysis software that will significantly improve WTPS manufacturing quality, reduce WTPS product analysis and development cycles, and improve the TPS of future NASA interplanetary missions by increasing confidence in the use of WTPS technologies.
The development of WTPS architectures is critical to several future NASA missions: Mars sample return, high-speed crew return, high-mass Mars landers, and Venus and gas/ice giant probes. The analytical approaches proposed will inform strategies for developing increased control capabilities for the 3D weaving processes, which will enable material optimization for these missions. The technology has promise to improve WTPSs used in NASA applications by providing material properties early in the design process and reducing time to qualification.
Potential defense applications for advanced 3D woven composites (3DWCs) and analytical technologies for their custom tailoring include rocket motor nozzles and thermal protection structures for hypersonic vehicles (e.g., leading edges, nosetips, and aeroshells). Commercial applications include use in the design of structural elements in civil infrastructure.