Physical Sciences Inc (PSI) has been awarded a contract from the U.S. Space Force to develop lightweight, high temperature syntactic foam shielding to protect from rocket plume-surface interactions during vertical takeoffs and landings.
Vertical landing of space systems presents a number of challenges. While landing rockets on flat surfaces has been achieved by multiple groups, landing on irregular surfaces still proves challenging on a number of fronts. Among these challenges is the plume kicking up dust and debris leading to both mechanical and chemical damage and erosion of the rocket. The issue of plume-surface interactions remains a strategic knowledge gap according to NASA.
The Advanced Composite Structures group at PSI has developed a high temperature syntactic foam that can be co-processed alongside other materials systems such as our C/SiC CMC’s and other SiC-matrix materials systems. The syntactic foam is composed of low cost, aluminosilicate cenospheres recovered from fly ash waste products in a SiC matrix to form a closed cell foam with a low density (<1.8 g/cc), reasonable mechanical strength (~30MPa), and very low thermal conductivity less than 1 W/m-K , . The cenospheres provide the foam’s closed-cell structure while the SiC matrix is formed using a polycarbosilane (PCS) pre-ceramic polymer (PCP). This high temperature, ceramic foam will serve as shielding for the rockets, protecting them from surface ejecta impacts and erosion as well as molten regolith interactions and chemical degradation.
For more information contact:
Mr. George Rodgers
Vice President, Advanced Composites
Physical Sciences Inc.
Office: (978) 689-0003
Acknowledgement of Sponsorship: This work is supported under a contract with the United States Space Force. This support does not constitute an express or implied endorsement on the part of the Government.