Reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) composite is used in applications where structural stiffness and strength must be maintained at very high temperatures that may reach 2000°C or more. For example, it was used on both the Space Shuttle’s nose cone and the leading edges of its wings. As exemplified by the Space Shuttle Columbia accident, the ability of these materials to survive impacts up to hypervelocity speeds can be critical for some applications. As computational modeling becomes an increasingly important component of the design process, the ability to accurately model RCC materials under impact conditions likewise becomes more and more important. This paper describes a computational model of the thermal protection used on the Space Shuttle orbiter. The model incorporates both the RCC comprising much of the protection system and its silicon carbide coating. The model was subjected to hypervelocity impacts with both steel and aluminum projectiles, and the results were compared to test data from the literature.

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