Abstract: Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator (PICA) is a low-density ablator that has been used as the planetary entry heatshield for several NASA missions since the late 90’s. Its low density and efficient performance characteristics have proven effective for use from Discovery to Flag-ship class missions. The rayon-based carbon precursor raw material used in PICA preform manufacturing has experienced multiple supply chain issues and required replacement and requalification at least twice in the past 25 years, and a third substitution is now needed. Due to the obsolescence of the input foreign rayon fiber source, a new variant of PICA has been developed using a domestic rayon-like fiber source, Lyocell. Results are presented from this effort including fiber conversion, fabrication of tile component and near net shaped heatshield preforms, and conversion to PICA materials. Thermal, mechanical, and representative environment arc-jet tests have been conducted. Initial testing of PICA-Domestic (PICA-D) indicates comparable performance with respect to “heritage” PICA materials and thus PICA-D is expected to be a sustainable solution for future NASA missions.
Authors: Matt Gasch, Kristina Skokova, Mairead Stackpoole, Ethiraj Venkatapathy, Don Ellerby, Frank Milos, Keith Peterson, Dinesh Prabhu, Greg Gonzales, Steve Violette, and Taylor Franklin
Keywords: Domestic, Lyocell, PICA, Ablative TPS