How Many Re-entries Can Be Made With a PICA Heat Shield?

Dan Rasky of NASA Ames is presenting what has be done and what could be done with the PICA heat shield at Space Access 2019.

The Stardust comet dust sample return mission 1999-2006 re-entered to the earth at a record 35Gs with the first use of the PICA heat shield.

In 2011-2012 the Curiosity Mars rover mission used a PICA heat shield.

The Osiris-Rex was launched in 2016 and will return in 2023 and is using a PICA heat shield.

SpaceX Dragon is using the PICA heat shield.

PICA (Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator) has a carbon fiber substrate. It uses phenolic as a transfer. You can reload the phenolic and get hundreds of reuses. If you do not reload the phenolic you get 10-20 re-entry reuses.

Nextbigfuture notes that this would seem to relate to part of the SpaceX Falcon 9 block 5 major maintenance after 10 uses.

NASA calls PICA multi-use. The 1996 PICA patent has timed out. PICA is now public domain.

Tires and brakes are not reusable but you can get a lot of reuses.

SpaceX Starship they are trying to get a heat shielding that can last for the full life of the vehicle.

Fiber Materials Incorporated and SpaceX are producing PICA heat shields.

SpaceX and Elon Musk are working on a metallic thermal protection system (TPS) for the new Starship. Dan Rasky says it is a difficult problem but he believes SpaceX has a shot at making it work. Dan has sent Elon material that he thinks will be helpful to make the metallic TPS work.

SOURCE – Live Coverage of Dan Rasky presentation at Space Access 2019
Written by Brian Wang,

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