THE EFFECTS OF FINITE-RATE REACTIONS AT THE GAS/SURFACE INTERFACE IN SUPPORT OF THERMAL PROTECTION SYSTEM DESIGN
Beerman, Adam Farrell
Lewis, Mark J
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Gas-surface modeling is dependent on material type and atmospheric reentry conditions. Lower molecular collisions at the low pressure trajectories make it more likely for occurrences of nonequilibrium, or finite-rate, reactions. Equilibrium is often assumed at the surface of a material as it is a subset of nonequilibrium and is easier to compute, though it can lead to overly conservative predictions. A case where a low density material experiences a low pressure trajectory and designed for equilibrium is the Stardust Return Capsule (SRC) with the Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator (PICA) as its heatshield. Post-flight analysis of the recession on the SRC found that the prediction from the equilibrium model can be more than 50% larger than the measured recession. The Modified Park Model was chosen as the finite-rate model as it contains simple four reactions (oxidation, sublimation, and nitridation) and has been previously used to study individual points of the SRC trajectory. The Modified Park Model cannot model equilibrium so a model BFIAT was developed that allows finite-rate reactions to be applied to the surface for a certain length of time. Finite-rate sublimation was determined to be reaction of importance in the Park Model for SRC-like conditions. The predicted recession on the SRC heatshield experienced a reduction in its overprediction; the finite-rate predictions fall with the measurement error of the recession at three points on the heatshield. The recession reduction was driven by a significant reduction in char formation. There was little change in the pyrolysis gas rate. The finite-rate model was also applied to simulations of various arc-jet tests that covered a range of heating conditions on the surface of the PICA material. Comparison to this experimental data further showed the role of finite-rate reactions and sublimation in the Park Model and conditions that favor the nonequilibrium assumption (heating over 1000 W/cm2). For the emerging PICA material, used for the Mars Science Laboratory and one of two material choices for the Crew Exploration Vehicle, and SRC-like trajectories, a finite-rate model was developed such that the more robust nonequilibrium assumption can be applied to design processes to reduce heatshield mass.