Hot structures for reentry vehicles

The reusable NGL system concept studies and the development of the IXV by FLPP have spurred technology activities on structures in harsh environments. These activities validate dedicated critical ceramic and metallic Thermal Protection Systems (TPSs) as well as Ceramic Matrix Composite (CMC) hot structures.

The challenge was to design, build and test subsystems based on:

  • The lightest TPS available, preventing the load-carrying substructure from excessive heat exposure and harsh environment of space and during the reentry phase. It should be able to withstand the repeated missions of the Reusable Launch Vehicle. Additionally, the TPS must be durable, with a smooth surface to prevent boundary layer interference.
  • The lightest load-carrying hot structures available, with material retaining sufficient physical and chemical properties at the operating temperature and withstanding thermo-mechanical loading. These components must be reused for a certain number of flights with a minimum effort of maintenance.


Reusable CMC elements have been tested in a realistic environment of dynamic flow, such as encountered in flight or simulated in a plasma arcjet facility.

These technology activities for atmospheric reentry missions, in particular CMC TPSs, have provided positive and useful results for IXV.

Last update: 30 October 2012

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