Onboard Flight Ablation Sensor

Navy SBIR 21.1 - Topic N211-092
SSP - Strategic Systems Programs - Mr. Michael Pyryt - michael.pyryt@ssp.navy.mil
Opens: January 14, 2021 - Closes: February 18, 2021 (12:00pm EDT)

N211-092 TITLE: Onboard Flight Ablation Sensor

RT&L FOCUS AREA(S): Hypersonics

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Electronics; Sensors

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 a sensor that can be integrated onboard a missile system to measure real-time surface temperature and ablation material response during hypersonic flight tests.

DESCRIPTION: A major technical challenge for hypersonic missiles includes managing the extreme heating environments experienced at hypersonic speeds. Current hypersonic systems have a Thermal Protection System (TPS) that includes expensive materials that are also difficult and time consuming to produce. Understanding the performance of these materials during developmental flight testing is key to providing an optimized system solution that can ultimately meet performance requirements while also reducing the cost to the US Government.

Critical TPS performance metrics that are required for full missile system performance in a flight test event include TPS surface temperatures and ablation data on critical components such as the nosecone, aeroshell and leading edges. Currently, sensor technology exists with the ability to capture critical TPS material information, including surface temperatures and ablation data, during laboratory testing. However, this sensor technology in its current state is not able to measure these parameters on a missile traveling at hypersonic speeds. The U.S. Navy is interested in a sensor that can be integrated onboard a missile system to measure real-time surface temperature and ablation material response during hypersonic flight tests.

This technology must be able to detect and measure parameters of the surface materials on the TPS from inside the missile. The design of the sensor will be required to have precise technical functionality as well as overcome the mechanical packaging and electrical integration challenges associated with an onboard missile system. This technology will enable critical test performance metrics to be captured that are not currently captured. The data collected from this enabling technology is critical to TPS modeling and simulation to further understand the capability of the current TPS design as well as future designs. This technology supports advanced system performance assessments such as understanding the maximum range capability of the current system. Also, this technology is key to reducing the robustness of the current TPS design in favor of an optimized design that focuses on system weight savings while maintaining performance requirements.

The Phase II effort will likely require secure access, and SSP will process the DD254 to support the contractor for personnel and facility certification for secure access. The Phase I effort will not require access to classified information. If needed, data of the same level of complexity as secured data will be provided to support Phase I work.

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. owned and operated with no foreign influence as defined by DoD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Counterintelligence Security Agency (DCSA). The selected contractor and/or subcontractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced phases of this project as set forth by DCSA and SSP in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advanced phases of this contract.

PHASE I: Propose a solution for developing a sensor that can be integrated onboard a missile system to measure real-time surface temperature and ablation material response during hypersonic flight tests. Identify ablation sensor technology and demonstrate bread-board ability to resolve length change on representative material. Perform subsystem design and analysis addressing material and environmental requirements for the sensor. Specific requirements for ablator material and measurement implementation for the prototype design must be understood. Demonstrate a concept that can maintain mechanical and electrical packaging requirements given by the Government upon contract award during the Phase I period of performance. The concept must be able to detect parameters on the materials surface from inside the missile.

The Phase I Option, if exercised, will include the initial design specifications and capabilities description to build a prototype solution in Phase II.

PHASE II: Develop a prototype that meets the Governmentís design requirements based on the results of Phase I and the Phase II Statement of Work (SOW) . The developed units must be suitable for proof-of-concept demonstration and ensure the electronic devices used on the prototype are suitable for flight test environments. During this Phase, access to classified design data is required to gain the actual system requirements for the technical specifications of the sensor, as well as the exact mechanical and electrical constraints that the prototype must adhere to. A Phase II Option, if exercised, would require the conduction of an aerothermal ground test with the prototype to prove that the performance and integration requirements of the prototype have been achieved.

It is probable that the work under this effort will be classified under Phase II (see Description section for details).

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Qualify the prototype to system level vibration and shock environments. Develop and document assembly instructions for the Government and provide assembly training on a test unit. Implement the technology for Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) developmental flight testing then utilized further on other Navy flight systems as required.


  1. Sherman, M.M. "Erosion Resistant Nosetip Technology." PDA Inc. Santa Ana, CA: PDA Technical Report, PDA-TR-1031-90-58, January 1978. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235198410_Hardened_Reentry_Vehicle_Development_Program_Erosion-Resistant_Nosetip_Technology
  2. 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, January 2012. https://arc.aiaa.org/doi/10.2514/6.2012-531

KEYWORDS: Hypersonic ablation; Thermal Protection System; Real-time surface temperature; Ablation material response; Hypersonic recession; Sensors


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the overall DoD 21.1 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at rt.cto.mil/rtl-small-business-resources/sbir-sttr/ for any updates.

The DoD issued its 21.1 SBIR BAA pre-release on December 8, 2020, which opens to receive proposals on January 14, 2021, and closes February 18, 2021 at 12:00 p.m. ET.

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