Air Force Research Laboratory has awarded an $8.5 million contract to SpaceX to enhance manufacturing technologies used to produce hypersonic-capable thermal protection systems, Space News reported Monday.
The company will conduct a study on production methods and material science for the development of new TPS, which would protect hypersonic vehicles from the heat of extremely fast flights. The systems typically serve as a layer of protection for spacecraft during atmospheric reentry.
The multipurpose thermal protection systems for hypersonics effort aims to allow for low-cost and high-volume production of a multipurpose TPS, AFRL said Friday in a SAM notice.
The laboratory also plans to test the use of 3D printing and other advanced manufacturing technologies for the production of hypersonic-capable TPSs.
California-based SpaceX provides TPS-equipped spacecraft for U.S. space missions, including NASA's Commercial Resupply Services program.