Nosetip Ablation Sensor and Telemetry Interface Unit for Hypersonic Vehicle Thermal Protection Systems

Navy SBIR 20.2 - Topic N202-129

Office of Naval Research (ONR) - Ms. Lore-Anne Ponirakis [email protected]

Opens: June 3, 2020 - Closes: July 2, 2020 (12:00 pm ET)



N202-129       TITLE: Nosetip Ablation Sensor and Telemetry Interface Unit for Hypersonic Vehicle Thermal Protection Systems


RT&L FOCUS AREA(S): Hypersonics

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Materials, Sensors, Weapons


The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 3.5 of the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.


OBJECTIVE: Develop an ablation rate sensor array and telemetry interface unit for fielding on Navy experimental hypersonic flight vehicles equipped with Extended Navy Test Bed (ENTB), or similar, telemetry units.


DESCRIPTION: The Navy performs many Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) flight tests. Some of these Navy SLBM test vehicles fly with an ENTB telemetry unit. The ENTB takes sensor outputs from on-board devices and transmits them to a ground station. The opportunity presented by this topic is to develop an ablation rate sensor technology for carbon/carbon nosetips, to package the sensor technology suitable for the Navy nosetip application, and to provide an electronic interface unit so as to pass the ablation rate data to an on-board telemetry unit such as an ENTB.


The ablation sensor array and interface unit electronics must be compatible with all Navy SLBM flight test requirements (size, weight, mass props, environment, shock/vibe, radiation, etc.). These requirements, as well as information for integration with the ENTB and any information necessary to demonstrate proof-of-concept, will be provided by the Navy to Phase I awardees at the time of award.


A non-intrusive ablation rate sensor technology is preferred over intrusive methods and should be able to resolve length changes to less than 0.01� (target) and 0.025� (threshold). As a non-intrusive method, ultrasonics have shown the ability to detect defects in carbon/carbon composites [Ref 4] and may be suitable for detecting length changes by use of front-face reflection. In the past an ultrasonic method has been used to measure length change of Tungsten nosetips due resonant frequency changes, as well as a bremstahlung radioactive gauge technique [Ref 5]. There has also been some recent work on a focused ultrasonic technique to measure surface loss [Ref 6]. However, proposals based on other non-intrusive methods are welcome.�


Intrusive methods could include embedded wires or fiber optics such as cited in [Ref 7], but proposal of an intrusive method must demonstrate applicability to a 3D carbon/carbon composite via a pre or post manufacturing technique. Pre-manufacture must demonstrate survivability through the carbon/carbon manufacturing process. Post manufacture must demonstrate no impact on component performance or survivability.��


The back face of ablating components, where it is assumed sensors will be located, will experience some short-term elevated temperature conditions. Sensors must have some degree of elevated temperature survivability.


Bulk graphite and mechanical ablation are acceptable as a means of demonstrating sensor technology during Phase I. The Navy has a limited amount of non-tactical carbon/carbon material that may be provided to the successful Phase II proposer(s). Suppliers proposing intrusive, pre-manufacture methods should provide their own materials and must demonstrate survivability through the extreme elevated temperature and highly reactive carbon/carbon process environment.


PHASE I: Identify ablation sensor technology and demonstrate bread-board ability to resolve length change on representative material within 0.025 (threshold) and 0.01� (target).� Develop architectures and schematics for the interface unit of a sensor array to the ENTB. Prepare a Phase II plan.


PHASE II: Based on requirements provided by the Navy, develop a prototype unit suitable for proof of concept demonstration under Navy-funded extreme ground test environment (arc jet test for ablation rate) with Navy-supplied carbon/carbon ablative test materials. Ensure that the electronic devices used on prototype unit are suitable for the Navy flight test environment.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Develop and produce flight test units for fielding on Navy experimental flight tests. This ablation sensing technology will be applicable on reusable commercial rocket components such as carbon/carbon throats and/or nozzles.



1. Navy Conventional Prompt Strike. https://news.usni/2018/11/21/navy-developing-prompt-global-strike-weapon-launch-sub-surface-ship


2. Navy Strategic Systems.


3. ENTB.


4. Poudel, A., Strycek, J. and Chu, T.� "Air-Coupled Ultrasonic Testing of Carbon/Carbon Composite Aircraft Brake Disks." Materials Evaluation, 71, pp. 987-994, 2013.


5. Sherman, M.M. �Erosion Resistant Nosetip Technology.� PDA Inc. Santa Ana, CA:� PDA Technical Report, PDA-TR-1031-90-58, January 1978.


6. Papadopoulos, G., Tikiakos, N. and Thomson, C. �Real-Time Ablation Recession Rate Sensor System for Advanced Reentry Vehicles.� , 50th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Mtg, Nashville, TN, Jan 2012.


7. Koo, J.,Natali, M., Lisco, B. et al, �A Versatile In-Situ Ablation Recession and Thermal Sensor Adapable for Different Types of Ablatives.� 56th AIAA SciTech Forum, Kissiminee, FL, 2015.


KEYWORDS: Carbon/carbon, Thermal Protection System, Ultrasonic Sensors, Ablation Rate, Hypersonic, Reentry



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