Arc-jet measurements of low-density ablator spallation

Kristen J. Price, Francesco Panerai, Colby G. Borchetta, J. Matthew Hardy, Alexandre Martin, Sean C.C. Bailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The origin and behavior of particles resulting from the spallation of ablative thermal protection materials was investigated using an arc-jet wind tunnel. Particle tracking velocimetry was used to track particles produced through spallation by using high-speed images that determine their trajectories once entering the surrounding flow, which is the post-shock region of a Mach 5 free-stream. Analysis of particle trajectories revealed dependence on flow composition and sample geometry while indicating that the presence of impregnated phenolic resin did not affect spallation. Geometric effects could be attributed to changes in the aerodynamic shear stress at the sample surface, and oxidation was also found to play an important role in increasing the production of spalled particles. Spallation rates were found to be related to the mass loss rate due to ablation, although some geometric effects were also observed. To estimate the contribution of spallation towards overall mass loss, the acceleration of individual particles along their trajectories was analyzed to produce an estimate of spallation particle size distribution. Diameters in the 1 to 100μm range were found, suggesting that these particles result from the breaking of individual carbon fibers of the ablative material, and the overall contribution to mass loss was found to be approximately 6%.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110544
JournalExperimental Thermal and Fluid Science
StatePublished - May 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial support for this work was provided by NASA Kentucky under NASA award no. NNX15AR69H and 80NSSC20M0047 , as well as by NASA Kentucky EPSCoR Award no. NNX13AN04A . Additional support was generously provided by the Entry Systems Modeling Project, through M.J. Wright at NASA Ames. The authors are immensely grateful to him. They also would like to thank J. Chavez-Garcia at NASA Ames, as well as S. Splinter, J.G. Gragg, and W. Geouge at NASA Langley for their technical assistance.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Inc.


  • Particle tracking velocimetry
  • Spallation
  • Thermal protection system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering (all)
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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