The thermal protection system (TPS) of a space vehicle ensures the structural integrity of the surface of the craft and maintains the correct internal temperatures (for crew, electronic equipment, etc.) when the vehicle is under the severe thermal loads of re-entry. These loads are characterised by very large heat fluxes over the relatively short period of re-entry.
The design of thermal protection systems for re-entry vehicles is very complex due to the number and complexity of phenomena involved: the flow around the vehicle is hypersonic, tridimensional and reactive, and its interaction with the vehicle’s surface may induce chemical reactions which are not fully understood.
Two TPS concepts for re-entry vehicles, ablative and radiative are examined and there is also an anlyisis of existing systems using them.