Chemistry and Materials Properties of Recent Low Density Ablators - Speaker: Dr. Wendy Fan, SpaceX

McDonnell Douglas Engineering Auditorium

Spacecraft require high performance heatshields for protection from aerodynamic heating during atmospheric entry.  As an example, the Space Shuttle used carbon carbon and ceramic tiles to protect its leading edge and lower body on the return trip from the International Space Station (ISS).  During high speed reentry, vehicles often experience severe heat stress necessitating an ablative heatshield for thermal protection.  Phenolic impregnated carbon ablator (PICA) is a lightweight ablator invented at NASA Ames that has recently been used successfully in the Stardust sample return and the Mars Science Laboratory missions.  One of its variations, PICA-X, is currently in use on the SpaceX’s dragon capsule for its return trip from the ISS.  This talk will discuss the recent development of PICA and several new and related families of low density ablators at NASA Ames.  The focus will be on the critical correlation of chemistry, microstructures and materials properties.


Speaker:  Dr. Wendy Fan, SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corporation), Hawthorne, CA

Dr. Fan received her B. Sc. in chemistry (Fudan University), M. Sc. in organic chemistry (Boston University) and Ph.D. in polymer chemistry (Stanford University).  She was a senior scientist at NASA Ames research center (as a contractor, ERC Inc.) working on nanotechnology and thermal protection materials before joining SpaceX last June.  Her current interest is in the research and development of high temperature composites such as carbon carbon and fiber reinforced ceramic and the application of these materials for flight hardware.