Elements of Sierra Nevada Corp. Space Systems’ Dream Chaser design will undergo significant testing this month, including evaluations of the Thermal Protection System in a phosphor thermography wind tunnel. The Thermal Protection System, or TPS, is the heat shield that keeps super-heated plasma from damaging the spacecraft as it enters Earth’s atmosphere.
The plasma is created by friction between the spacecraft, which is flying in at more than 17,000 mph, and the air in the upper reaches of the atmosphere. The heat shield for the Dream Chaser also challenges designers because it has to hug the aerodynamic form of the spacecraft that is designed to glide to a runway landing after returning from space.
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