Thermal protection systems represent the key issue for the successful re-entry of a space vehicle. Future concepts for space launchers foresee sharp aerodynamic profiles as conventional aircrafts, which offers several advantages with respect to current blunt shapes. As a drawback, aerodynamic heat flux increases dramatically and state of art hot structures materials cannot withstand them. UHTC (Ultra High Temperature Ceramics) materials are very promising candidate materials for such applications. An innovative, proprietary methodology was developed to produce, by plasma spraying deposition, a ceramic composite containing SiC particles (25 wt %) dispersed in a ZrB2 matrix. With such a technique both coatings and self standing parts were fabricated. The present paper reports the results of a development activity aiming at testing plasma sprayed real scale components in simulated operative conditions by means of a Plasma Wind Tunnel. The results of the tests showed that plasma sprayed UHTC materials can withstand very high heat flux conditions in an oxidizing environment. Abstract only; no full-text paper available.

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