Elon Musk will make heat shields for US hypersonic missiles

PANAGYURISHTE, (BM) – The US Air Force is looking for new ways to fabricate heat shields (missiles) that could work in demanding hypersonic applications. For this purpose, a new industrial contract was concluded to research and select appropriate material technologies and production methods. Elon Musk’s company – SpaceX, was his beneficiary, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing Space24.

The US Air Force commissioned SpaceX to develop a concept for producing heat shields for future US missiles operating at very high air velocities. The agreement is the result of a tender procedure carried out on the initiative of the Pentagon, in which – according to general assurances – “many bidders” took part. The public tender was titled “Multipurpose thermal protection systems for hypersonics.”

The contract for USD 8.5 million was concluded between the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and SpaceX in December 2020. However, the information was not made public until the end of February this year. “The aim is to improve the technology of manufacturing thermal protection systems to enable low-cost mass production of such next-generation devices,” says the award announcement.

More about the extreme heating of the missiles

Protection against extreme heating of the missile body and its increased thermal resistance is crucial in preparing flying systems to reach hypersonic speeds (conventionally, above five times the sound barrier). On the one hand, it is about indicating the appropriate construction material that ensures the best parameters of resistance and lightness; on the other hand – the aim is to show such technology of its production that it is done using the most advanced means the lowest possible cost. It is indicated, among other things, on the possibilities offered in this subject by the industrial method of additive manufacturing (popular 3D printing).

The key role of the Crew Dragon spacecraft

SpaceX’s commitment to research on the heat shields of hypersonic missiles is directly the result of Elon Musk’s achievements in building advanced coatings to protect Crew Dragon’s hulls human-crewed spacecraft, as well as research on securing the bodies of Starship rockets. SpaceX has introduced many innovations here that also protect Dragon capsules and their passengers during the highly stressful passage at space speeds through the Earth’s atmosphere.

AFRL, in turn, has been involved for a long time in the implementation of various projects for the development of hypersonic vehicle technology, conducted so far under the auspices of the Department of Defense, the US Air Force, as well as DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). Under the contract, the US Air Force laboratory will test the material and production technologies proposed by SpaceX and try to use them experimentally with the planned military purpose.


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