WildCATS: Wildcats Cubesat Ablator Testing System

Grants and Contracts Details


A current issue regarding extraplanetary travel is the use of newer Thermal Protection Systems (TPS) on vehicles re-entering the atmosphere. As it is now, when a new TPS are conceived, it is built, tested in an arc-jet, and then numerical models are built. This is a reasonable guess at how the TPS will behave. But without physically re-entering a vehicle with the TPS, it is still unknown how the TPS will truly behave. This is currently done with a fairly expensive launch/vehicle. The proposed project involves re-entering a CubeSat from orbit for the purpose of testing a new TPS—up to four different TPS at a time. The eventual goal being to create a testing standard for economically efficient tests of new TPS. The NASA Mission Directorate Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) coincides perfectly with this project. Ensuring a fully functioning TPS is vital to the safety of any returning extraplanetary crew. By testing the TPS in the aforementioned manner, the reliability of many types TPS can be known before a mission is flown. A particular TPS can be specially made and tested for a particular mission. In the one year of requested funding, it is the goal of the team to design and test the parts necessary to develop a standardized ”test-bed” for re-entry testing of TPS, as well as potentially build a full-scale, functioning prototype. The prototype will not necessarily leave Earth and re-enter within the one year time allotment, but the possibility will be present. Being a college design project, there are no externally-imposed deadlines. The team experience of the student of this proposal includes many team projects throughout his engineering career at the University of Kentucky, as well as all the experienced gleaned from owning a small R&D company.
Effective start/end date1/1/1312/31/15


  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration


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