The Effects of Friction on Orion’s Thermal Protection System During Atmospheric Entry

K.J. Mattalo
St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School SPH-4U1 March 25, 2012

Abstract We analyze the dynamics of the Orion Crew Module during the atmopsheric entry phase and the properties of the Orion Crew Module’s Thermal Protection System in protecting against frictional damage.

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Introduction

Orion is a next-generation spacecraft being developed by NASA as part of its Constellation program. The primary goals of the Constellation program and the Orion spacecraft is to carry astronauts to the International Space Station by 2015 and to the Moon by 2020 [1]. It will also serve as the primary successor of the Space Shuttle Program as a means of exploration past low-Earth orbit and into the rest of the solar system with the aid of the Ares I rocket. In order to achieve such feats, the design of the Orion spacecraft must overcome various engineering issues. One of the primary issues which must be overcome is the stabilization of the Orion Crew Module during atmospheric entry onto Earth and other planets. Also, the Orion Crew Module requires the construction of a durable ablative shield that can overcome excessive temperature increases due to high-velocity atmospheric entry and the resultant air resistance acting on the spacecraft. In this paper we will investigate the properties of Orion through the aerodynamic design of the spacecraft, the properties of the materials used and in conclusion to understand how each of these aspects affect the overall performance of Orion through analyzing the dynamics of ballistic objects.

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Orion Crew Module Aerodynamics

The aerodynamics of the Orion Crew Module is a critical design component that is important for the thermal properties of Orion, the dynamics resulting from the acting forces and the stability of Orion through turbulent atmospheres at high-velocities. The Orion Crew Module derived its design from the Apollo Command Module because of its effective ability to increase stability and decrease thermal damage due to air resistance [2].

Figure 1: Orion Crew Module [3]

Figure 2: Apollo Command Module [4]

The design of these modules in Figure 1 & 2 are nearly identical in structure and shape and by analyzing the aerodynamic properties and forces acting on this design, its effectiveness becomes more obvious. The primary aerodynamic component of the Orion Crew Module is the shape and surface area of its heat shield. The circular shape of the heat shield allows for even distribution of air resistance forces over the entire surface. This stabilizes the motion of the module since according to Newton’s Second Law, an object accelerates in the direction of the unbalanced force and it is the circular shape itself that minimizes the deviation of forces acting over the surface area of the shield. The functions of the

Figure 3: Heat Shield [5]

Figure 4: Shield Temperature Flux [6]

The Effects of Friction on Orion’s Thermal Protection System During Atmospheric Entry heat shield’s large surface area is to maximize the air resistance forces contributing to the module’s deceleration before parachute deployment and to separate the occupants of the vehicle from the large temperature shifts occuring at the base [7]. Figure 4 provides an observational aid in visualizing how the heat shield effectively absorbs and deflects the flow of the hot air [8]. As air resistance increases due to the rapid density increase of the atmosphere the heat shield approaches temperatures of 2760◦ C as indicated by the red colouring in Figure 4 [9]. Further analysis of Figure 4 shows that the heat flow is forced outwards, away from the module and it dissipates in the air as it returns to a blue colouring. During the atmospheric entry phase the Orion Crew Module enters the atmosphere at an angle α relative to the direction of its velocity. This angle α represents the angle of attack of the Orion Crew Module. The angle of attack is critical in producing lift in airfoils and can also produce lift forces on the module.

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Figure 5: Angle of attack during entry [10]

Figure 6: Angle of attack [11]

As the value of α increases the lift forces acting on the module also increase; aiding in the deceleration of the module [12]. Figure 5 shows the angle of attack during the re-entry process of the Orion Crew Module. The angle between the intersection of the flame trail (direction of velocity) and the line passing perpendicular to the heat shield (direction of heat shield) is the angle of attack of the module. The resultant lift force gradually decelerates the module as the density of air increases due to a pressure differential formed over the top and bottom of the module.

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Physical Properties of Heat Shield Materials

On returning from a deep space mission the Orion Crew Module will experience extreme fluctuations in temperature as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere at 37, 000

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km/h [13]. These extreme temperatures are capable of melting iron and various other high strength metals and materials. To preserve the integrity of the heat shield, Orion contains advanced ceramic and silicate materials that ablate (absorb heat and burn) and redirect the flow of high temperature air around the capsule [14]. There are two functioning thermal protection materials on the Orion Crew Module, the first being AVCOAT which is composed of silcon dioxide (SiO2 ) embedded within a honeycomb fiberglass matrix, mixed with a thermoset resin (cures irreversably) [15].

Figure 7: Honeycomb fiberglass [16]

Figure 8: Thermoset polymer resin [17]

Figure 9: Silicon dixide: red is oxygen, silver is silicon [18] This layer is the ablation component of the heat shield, it absorbs the heat and breaks down chemically into carbon and silica. The heat absorbed by this material is directed away from the module due to the flow of air being forced outwards by the circular shield as shown in Figure 4. The secondary material is a ceramic composite material known as AETB-8 tiles.

Figure 10: AETB-8 ceramic composite tile [19]

The Effects of Friction on Orion’s Thermal Protection System During Atmospheric Entry The thermal advantages of using a ceramic composiite is that it is extremely heat resistant and only begins to decompose at temperatures beyond 2,000◦ C [20]. Furthermore, ceramic composites have very low thermal expansion and thermal conductivity aiding in the durability of the Orion Crew Module and in the safe keeping of the occupants [21].

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Ballistics of The Orion Crew Module

During the atmospheric entry phase of the Orion Crew Module, it undergoes a ballistic entry which is when the force contributing to the deceleration (drag/air resistance) is opposite the direction of the velocity v0 .

Figure 11: Free Body Diagram Showing Forces and Velocity Components Acting On Orion During Re-Entry. In this diagram FD , the force of drag is acting opposite in direction to the direction of the velocity v0 and has both vertical and horizontal components as does the velocity v0 . The Orion spacecraft is accelerating downwards at high altitudes because of the lack of air density but as it increases FD also increases since it is a function of the velocity of the object and the density of air. The full representation of the force of drag is given by the equation: 1 FD = ρv 2 Cd A (1) 2 where ρ is the density of the medium, v is the velocity of the object, Cd is the drag coefficient which is a dimensionless constant derived from the shape of the object and A is the reference area (i.e the area of the heat shield) [22]. Since FD is angled the forces can be divided into components giving the following two equations governing the dynamics of Orion during re-entry:

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Fx = ma FD cos(α) = ma and Fy = ma FD sin(α) − Fg = ma

(2)

(3)

By analyzing equation (2) you can see that there is only one force acting in the xdirection therefore Orion will decelerate according to the values of the parameters in equation (1). In the y-direction there are two forces acting on Orion, the force of gravity Fg and the y-component of the force of drag FD sin(α). At high altitudes Fg > FD sin(α) but since FD sin(α) is a function of air density (ρ) and velocity (v) as the density of air rapdily increases FD sin(α) also increases thus counter-balancing Fg and the result is Fg < FD sin(α). But, as the velocity slows down FD sin(α) decreases and they reach a dynamic equilibrium where Fg = FD sin(α). The dynamics of FD on Orion during the re-entry is the reason why that aerodynamics of Orion and the thermal properties of its materials must be so precise and finely engineered. It is this force which produces the immense heat wishtood by the shield and the AVCOAT/AETB-8 materials. It is through the design of an efficiently aerodynamic module and through the selection and testing of advanced materials that the effects of friction on the Orion Crew Module and be reduced and safeguard the future for human space exploration. ”Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.” - Carl Sagan

Figure 11: Artistic Impression of Orion During Atmospheric Entry [23]

The Effects of Friction on Orion’s Thermal Protection System During Atmospheric Entry

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References
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[10] NASA. ”Aerospace Seals: Heat Shield Seals.” Internet : www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/StructuresMaterials/TribMech/research/B heat shield seals.html, Sept. 22, 2009[Mar. 24 2012]. [11] T. Knott. ”Angle of attack.” Internet : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Angle of attack.svg, Aug. 28, 2006[Mar. 24, 2012]. [12] NASA: Glenn Research Center. ”Inclination Effects on Lift.” Internet : www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/k-12/airplane/incline.html, Jul. 28, 2010[Mar. 24, 2012]. [13] NASA. ”AMERICA’S NEXT GENERATION SPACECRAFT.” Internet : www.nasa.gov/pdf/491544main orion book web.pdf, Oct. 25, 2010[Mar. 24, 2012]. [14] NASA. ”AMERICA’S NEXT GENERATION SPACECRAFT.” Internet : www.nasa.gov/pdf/491544main orion book web.pdf, Oct. 25, 2010[Mar. 24, 2012]. [15] A. Edwards, G.Hautaluoma, K. Clem. ”NASA Selects Material for Orion Spacecraft Heat Shield.” Internet : www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2009/apr/HQ 09080 Orion Heat Shield.html, Apr. 7, 2009[Mar. 24, 2012]. [16] Ayres: Lightweight Panel System. ”Sandwich panel: fiberglass/honeycomb.” Internet : www.nauticexpo.com/prod/ayres-composite-panels/sandwich-panelsfiberglasss-honeycombs-28043-244681.html, N/A[Mar. 25, 2012]. [17] I. Karonen. ”Polymer Branch.” Internet : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Polymer Branch.svg, May 2, 2009[Mar. 25, 2012]. [18] Materialsscientist. ”A-Quartz.” Internet quartz.png, Mar. 26, 2010[Mar. 25, 2012]. : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:A-

[19] NASA Spaceflight. ”AETB-8 tiles.” Internet www.nasaspaceflight.com/2012/02/exploration-mission-1-sls-orion-debutmission-moon-outlined/, Feb. 29, 2012[Mar. 25, 2012].

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[20] Fine Ceramics World. ”Characteristics of Fine Ceramics: Thermal.” Internet : global.kyocera.com/fcworld/charact/heat/thermaexpan.html, N/A[Mar. 25, 2012].

The Effects of Friction on Orion’s Thermal Protection System During Atmospheric Entry [21] Fine Ceramics World. ”Characteristics of Fine Ceramics: Thermal.” Internet : global.kyocera.com/fcworld/charact/heat/thermaexpan.html, N/A[Mar. 25, 2012]. [22] Wikipedia. ”Drag(physics).” Internet : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drag (physics), Mar. 19, 2012[Mar. 25, 2012]. [23] NASA. ”Rendering of a Concept Crew Exploration Vehicle.” Internet : www.floridatoday.com/content/blogs/space/2009/04/nasa-selects-apolloera-heat-shield.shtml, Apr. 7, 2009[Mar. 25, 2012].

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