In one of the launch vehicles of ISRO, there are two solid strap-ons attached to the core liquid engine. During the ascent phase, the external nozzle divergent of the strap-ons experiences heating due to radiation from the strap-ons as well as convective heating from the impingement of plumes from the core engine. Hence, the nozzle divergent of the strap-on beyond compliance ring is thermally protected by a coating of PC10 insulation applied over carbon/epoxy structural backup. Though the system worked satisfactorily, application of PC10 had increased the inert weight of each nozzle by 165 kg and took long time for realization. To reduce the inert weight as well as the time of application, precast phenolic based cork sheets (CkP) having lower density than PC10 were selected, as a replacement to PC10. As part of evaluating the thermal performance of the CkP material, specimen level tests with different configurations were carried out in 250 kW plasma jet facility of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) wherein both the heat flux and the shear stress as expected in flight were simulated simultaneously. At the end of the test program, CkP was found to be superior to PC10 for external thermal protection system (TPS). This paper highlights details of the qualification tests carried out for clearing the cork phenolic system for use in the future launches.

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