Fiber Materials Inc. was recently highlighted in the May 2014 issue of High-Performance Composites as the supplier of the Mars Science Lab (MSL) PICA thermal protection system (TPS) in the May 2014 issue of High-Performance Composites. PICA (phenolic-impregnated carbon ablator) is a legacy material that has been used for Mars entry and Earth re-entry both in tiled and monolithic formats. In the case of the MSL heat shield, FMI created 114 PICA tiles precisely engineered to maintain perfect alignment to prevent any damage to the Curiosity rover during entry into the Martian atmosphere. At nearly 15 feet in diameter, the MSL TPS is the largest ablative heat shield used to date. Read the full story about MSL on the Composites World website.
For its work on the MSL TPS, FMI received the prestigious Innovation Award from the Ohio Aerospace Institute in 2013. In addition to the MSL TPS, FMI provided the heat shield for the Stardust Sample Return Capsule launched in the late 1990s. The Stardust mission collected and brought back samples of a comet as well as the fly by and study of an asteroid. The samples returned safely to Earth in 2006. The Stardust heat shield can be viewed in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.