Status Report

NASA LaRC Solicitation: Reentry Test Article

By SpaceRef Editor
October 5, 2009
Filed under , ,

Synopsis – Oct 05, 2009

Referenced Figures – Posted on Oct 05, 2009 New!

General Information

Solicitation Number: N/A
Reference Number: SS-IRVE-III
Posted Date: Oct 05, 2009
FedBizOpps Posted Date: Oct 05, 2009
Recovery and Reinvestment Act Action: No
Original Response Date: Oct 20, 2009
Current Response Date: Oct 20, 2009
Classification Code: A — Research and Development
NAICS Code: 541712 – Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences (except Biotechnology)

Contracting Office Address

NASA/Langley Research Center, Mail Stop 144, Industry Assistance Office, Hampton, VA 23681-0001


NASA/LaRC is hereby soliciting information about potential sources for the design, development and build of an inflatable reentry vehicle test article for the Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE) – 3 Project.

Recent systems analysis studies are showing that inflatable aeroshells are an enabling technology for high mass Mars systems. On August 17, 2009, the IRVE-II project (with a 2.96m (116.5in) inflatable aeroshell) was launched on sounding rocket out of Wallops Flight Facility, with a goal of demonstrating the concept of inflatable reentry vehicles. During the IRVE-II flight, the aeroshell inflated as designed and maintained stability not only through hypersonic reentry but also through the supersonic, transonic and subsonic flight regimes. With this IRVE-II proof-of-concept demonstration, a next logical step would be a flight test to increase the heat flux on the inflatable (to get closer to a more operationally realistic flight environment).

NASA LaRC, in conjunction with the Fundamental Aerodynamics Program Hypersonics Project, has initiated IRVE-3 which will build on both IRVE-II and ongoing ground-based developments, with a primary goal of 5X to 10X higher heat flux than IRVE-II. IRVE-3 will be launched on a Black Brant XI with a 22in (0.55m) shroud. The target ballistic number of the reentry vehicle is double that of IRVE-II, so the payload being decelerated by the aeroshell will be roughly 200kg (441lb) more than the mass allocated for the aeroshell. Preliminary estimates of the peak deceleration are on the order of 25g (and this is the value to be used for preliminary aeroshell/payload interface loading).

Sources are being sought for design, analysis, fabrication, integration, and testing support of an inflatable reentry vehicle test article for IRVE-3. After integration and system testing, the inflatable article will be hard-packed for launch and remain in a stowed configuration for several months before launch, inflation, and reentry.

Components of the inflatable reentry vehicle will include: Inflatable Structure, Thermal Protection System, Insulator Material, Restraint System, and Instrumentation. Proposals will be accepted as a system, or individual components. All components of the system shall be constructed of materials that are “radio transparent.” If some component is “radio opaque,” it shall be a small enough portion of the deployed aeroshell system area so as not to interfere with the vehicle telemetry system (which will use an s-band frequency transmitter with an omni-directional wraparound antenna). Note that for nominal conditions, the aeroshell is between the antenna and ground receiving dish network.

Responses will be judged based on the following criteria for the components of the article:

Inflatable structure

The vendor shall provide an inflatable structure with the following attributes:

  • Geometry: – 3.00 +/- 0.01m (118.1 +/0.4in) in diameter (inner diameter of 0.381m (15.00in)); 60 deg half-angle cone (+/- 5 deg). Shoulder radius maximum of 0.051m (2.00in). Note that based on our on-going in-house studies, we do not desire isotensoid or tension cone configurations for hypersonic applications.
  • The inflatable structure shall have sufficient rigidity when inflated to maintain its flight shape in near-zero gravity while performing attitude control maneuvers.
  • The inflatable shall be pressurized with lab-grade clean, dry nitrogen.
  • Maximum expected operating pressure (MEOP): – 138kPa (20psig). – Proof pressure of 1.5X MEOP required. – Burst pressure of 2X MEOP required. – Higher pressure capability will be judged more favorably.
  • Leak-rate: – At 138kPa gage (20psig) internal gauge pressure, 7.1 standard liters per minute (slpm) (0.25 standard cubic ft per minute [scfm]) or less in vacuum and 28.3slpm (1.0scfm) or less at sea level static (SLS) pressure (IRVE-II 116.1slpm (4.1scfm) at SLS). – Lower leak rates will be judged more favorably.
  • Maximum atmospheric entry load: – Support 8kPa (1.16psi) uniform pressure distribution on forward surface of cone and negligible pressure on aft surface. – While under 8 kPa uniform pressure distribution, shall maintain at least 95 per cent of drag area of unloaded shape.
  • Maximum expected operating temperature: – A 250C (482F) for short duration (~10 sec at peak temperature). – To provide a safety factor, the bladder should be capable of surviving peak temperatures on the order of 300C (572F) for that same duration. – Higher temperature capability will be judged more favorably.
  • Mass: – Inflatable structure shall have a maximum mass of 22.5 kg (49.6 lb), including bladder, fill lines, and structural attachments to center body. – Lower mass systems will be judged more favorably.
  • Packing: – Inflatable structure shall pack for flight as described below in System Performance section.
  • Damage Tolerance: – The Bladder shall demonstrate tolerance to damage (e.g., puncture) without compromising structural integrity (i.e., limit or prevent damage propagation)
  • The inflatable structure shall provide inflation lines and pressure sense lines from the inflatable volumes in the structure to the centerbody with an interface to be specified by NASA.
  • Strain sensing instrumentation may be incorporated on the structural bladder(s), if available.
  • Thermal Protection System (TPS)
  • The vendor shall provide a TPS with the following attributes:
  • Flexible TPS shall be constructed of multiple layers. – Outer high temperature fabric (current concept: two plies Nextel BF20; alternate materials under consideration include Refrasil UC100, Nextel AF14, and custom-weave silicon-carbide cloth). – Insulating layer (current concept: two plies Aspen Pyrogel 3350; alternate concepts include other PAN fiber needled felt composites). – Gas barrier (current concept: two plies polyimide film; alternate concepts include single ply of arimid reinforced polyimide film and expanded Teflon Polyimide filled composite film).
  • The flexible TPS shall be quilted in a pattern (to be prescribed later) to prevent misalignment of the plies relative to each other and relative to the underlying structure.
  • The flexible TPS will be anchored to the underlying structure at multiple discrete points (quantity and locations to be worked after contract award with the structure and TPS vendor(s) in concert with NASA team).
  • The same layup shall be used on the rigid nose and the deployable cone.
  • The target composite mass for the TPS (nose and deployable) is 25.0kg (55.1lb). Responses with lower mass will be judged more favorably.
  • Responses indicating fabrication experience with these or similar materials will be judged more favorably.

Rigid Nose TPS – Flexible TPS shall cover and attach to the vehicle nose cap and shall have accommodations for four thermal flux gauges (currently slug calorimeters) measuring surface heat flux, and have approximately 24 embedded thermocouples to take measurements between each ply. Nose cap geometry is a 60deg sphere cone as shown in Figure 1. Attachment method of TPS to nose cap to be developed by vendor (current conceptual design is a clamped restraint around max diameter). – TPS vendor shall be responsible for integration of the TPS to the rigid nose cap structure. – TPS vendor shall be responsible for integration of thermocouples between the layers of the flexible TPS nose cover.

Deployable Cone TPS (protecting the inflatable structure): – The TPS shall cover the deployable cone from beneath the rigid nose transition to beyond the deployed maximum diameter (see Figure 2). – In the event the TPS and Inflatable Structure are manufactured by different vendors, the TPS/Inflatable Structure Interface shall be developed after contract award by the joint NASA/Vendor(s) team. – In the event the TPS and Inflatable Structure are manufactured by different vendors, the TPS vendor shall be responsible for integration of the TPS to the inflatable structure. – TPS vendor shall integrate approximately 48 thermocouples embedded in the assembly at approximately 12 locations with a thermocouple between each ply.

Insulator Material

The insulator material vendor shall provide an insulator material with the following attributes:

  • The insulator shall be able to survive at least three hard packs. (A hard pack, which involves bending, creasing, and compressing the material, is a vacuum bag process, where materials are under approximately 101kPa (14.7psi) load.) After each hard pack, the material shall regain original form without degradation to the material (such as any breakage, cracking, ripping, or deformities resulting in localized thickness variations which change the insulative properties of the material).
  • The insulator material shall be thin and flexible, with a maximum thickness of 2 mm (0.079 in). Thinner materials will be judged more favorably.
  • The insulator material shall have a conductivity value lower than 0.15 W-m-K (0.0867 Btu/hr-ft-deg F).
  • The insulator material shall be able to survive at temperature greater than 500C (932F) for at least 90 sec. Higher temperature capable materials will be judged more favorably.
  • When handled, the insulator material shall not particulate significantly such that the material performance is degraded.
  • The insulator material shall not be primarily ablative in nature. That is, the primary mechanism of temperature management should not be based on estimating ablative coatings thicknesses. The fabric substructure should be able to manage and survive without ablative coatings. If different vendors supply the TPS and insulator materials, the two vendors shall collaborate to integrate the insulator material into the overall TPS component.

Restraint System

The vendor shall provide a restraint system with the following attributes:

  • The restraint system shall secure the inflatable in the stowed configuration during ground handling, testing, and launch. Launch loads as specified in the Sounding Rocket Payload Handbook for a Black Brant XI launch vehicle.
  • The restraint system shall release the inflatable article in flight (initiated by pyrotechnic device provided by the NASA team).
  • The restraint system shall have provisions for applying balance weights to correct any imbalance the stowed aeroshell system. Discrete balance weights of up to 2kg (4.4lb) may required in multiple locations.
  • The target mass for the restraint system without balance masses is 3kg (6.6lb). Responses with lower mass will be judged more favorably.
  • Instrumentation systems
  • The vendor shall provide a sensing system compatible with the flexible inflatable structure and/or TPS. Desired measurements include but are not limited to:
  • Thermal Flux
  • Temperature
  • Surface Pressure
  • Strain
  • Shape

Combined System Requirements

The components shall work together as a system to achieve:

General expectations of the contractor will include:

  • Performing structural analyses on delivered hardware (load set to be developed with NASA).
  • Performing coupon load testing to verify design performance in relevant environment as predicted by NASA analyses.
  • Participating via telecon in weekly team meetings.
  • Presenting design analysis and testing results at the formal project design reviews notionally scheduled below.
  • Supporting system integration of both the EDU and the flight unit (TPS to Inflatable, Inflatable to Centerbody Structure, hard packing and installation of Restraint System). Multiple hard packs may be required.
  • Supporting system testing (full system deployment in vacuum chamber and at Sea Level Static and deployed shape verification).
  • Delivering design packages to include: drawings, test reports, and assembly procedures at each major design review.

Notional Project and Delivery schedule:

  • Preliminary Design Review (PDR) June 2010
  • Engineering Development Unit 2 months prior to Critical Design Review (CDR) (April 2010)
  • CDR June 2011
  • Flight unit delivery to NASA for integration to vehicle 3 months post-CDR (Sept 2011)
  • End to end system test in vacuum chamber October 2011
  • Ship Integrated Vehicle to Launch Site January 2012
  • Launch March 2012

No solicitation exists; therefore, do not request a copy of the solicitation. If a solicitation is released it will be synopsized in FedBizOpps and on the NASA Acquisition Internet Service. It is the potential offeror’s responsibility to monitor these sites for the release of any solicitation or synopsis.

Interested offerors/vendors having the required specialized capabilities to meet the above requirement should submit a capability statement of 10 pages or less indicating the ability to perform all aspects of the effort (whether the submittal is at the component(s) level or at the integrated system level) described herein. Interested offerors/vendors should include a rough order of magnitude estimate to perform the work that is included in the capability statement.

Responses should include the following: name and address of firm, size of business; average annual revenue for past 3 years and number of employees; ownership; whether they are large, small, small disadvantaged, 8(a), HUBZone, and/or woman-owned; number of years in business; affiliate information: parent company, joint venture partners, potential teaming partners, prime contractor (if potential sub) or subcontractors (if potential prime); list of customers covering the past five years (highlight relevant work performed, contract numbers, contract type, dollar value of each procurement; and point of contact – address and phone number). Technical questions should be directed to: Monica Hughes ( Procurement related questions should be directed to: Brad Gardner (

This synopsis is for information and planning purposes and is not to be construed as a commitment by the Government nor will the Government pay for information solicited. Respondents will not be notified of the results of the evaluation. Respondents deemed fully qualified will be considered in any resultant solicitation for the requirement.

The Government reserves the right to consider a small business or 8(a) set-aside based on responses hereto. All responses shall be submitted via email to Monica Hughes ( and Brad Gardner ( no later than October 20, 2009. Please reference SS-IRVE-III in any response. Any referenced notes may be viewed at the following URLs linked below.

Point of Contact

Name: Robert B. Gardner
Title: Contracting Officer
Phone: 757-864-2525
Fax: 757-864-7898

Name: Rosemary C. Froehlich
Title: Contracting Officer
Phone: 757-864-2423
Fax: 757-864-8541

SpaceRef staff editor.