Aerospace, green light to the development of a new made in Italy ceramic material
Interesting prospects are opening up for the development of a new made in Italy material with applications in the aerospace sector.
The new opportunities are opened by the success of the tests carried out on an innovative material for thermal protection developed by CIRA, the Italian Aerospace Research Centre, in collaboration with Petroceramics, a company specializing in the development of high-performance ceramic matrix composites.
The material was tested in CIRA’s Scirocco plasma wind tunnel on an aerospace component exposed for 10 minutes to conditions simulating the re-entry conditions from low Earth orbit. The component reached temperatures of about 1200 degrees Celsius showing no sign of degradation, thus proving that it can be employed as a reusable thermal protection.
The material resulting from the collaboration between CIRA and Petroceramics proved to be able to withstand extremely high thermal and mechanical stresses in an oxidizing environment. It is a completely new reinforced ceramic composite with the advantage that it can be produced in a rapid, cost-effective manner.
The field of application is that of space re-entry technologies. In particular, the positive result of the tests on the new material opens the way for the development of made in Italy thermal protection systems, also useful in view of future programmes of the European Space Agency, such as Space Rider.
“ESA’s Space Rider Programme aims to provide Europe with a space transportation system that is integrated with the new Vega C launcher that allows access and re-entry from Earth orbit in an affordable, reusable and, above all, independent manner for multiple space applications and beyond”, said Giorgio Tumino, ESA Vega and Space Rider Development Programmes Manager.
“ESA has closely followed all the progress CIRA and Petroceramics have made to bring their original technology to an advanced level of maturity. The success of the tests, carried out on a flap model that will have to drive the vehicle during the hypersonic flight phase of an atmospheric re-entry, shows that the new technology has the right credentials to be used on the real component”, Tumino concluded.
For the development of the new material, CIRA and Petroceramics made the most of their respective experience and expertise in the production of long fibre composites for aerospace applications and in liquid silicon infiltration techniques in the high-end automotive sector.