The ablative heatshield material used on the Apollo command module, Avcoat, is to be investigated as an alternative thermal protection system (TPS) for the US Orion crew exploration vehicle.

NASA has awarded a $24 million contract to Textron Systems, which will examine Avcoat and a material called dual layer as part of alternative Block 2 TPS materials and heatshield systems advanced development.

At the same time Boeing has been awarded $10 million to investigate its proprietary Boeing phenolic ablator as an alternative to the primary CEV heatshield material, phenolic impregnated carbon ablator, which it is developing under a contract awarded in September 2006.

The contracts are intended to ensure the materials are mature enough to become viable back-ups if there are difficulties with the primary material. But alternative materials will only be developed fully if the primary material does not perform to required specifications.

Source: Flight International