COLUMBUS, Ohio—Battelle announced in November that it won a potential seven-year, $46.3 million contract to help the Department of Defense support the manufacture of thermal protection materials that can withstand extreme hypersonic environments. The Manufacturing of Carbon/Carbon Composites for Hypersonic Applications (MOC3HA) initiative seeks to rapidly mature and integrate manufacturing innovations that will accelerate the production of carbon/carbon composites, Battelle said in a release.

The Air Force Research Laboratory received five bids for the Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (ID/IQ) contract and will obligate $6.3 million in fiscal 2020 research, development, test and evaluation funds at the time of award, the release said.

“Battelle made a strategic decision a little over a year ago to re-examine the basic process used for creating critical high-temperature carbon materials that are used in hypersonic vehicle shells and structures,” said Andy Kirby, research lead for space and hypersonics, in the release. “Currently, it’s a very expensive, time-consuming process that doesn’t lend itself to the scalability needed to meet the increasing demand for future hypersonic weapons.”

The urgency to meet and exceed near-peer capabilities in hypersonic weapons systems has elevated the importance of solving the daunting scientific and engineering challenges that have made reliable flight at hypersonic (Mach 5+) speeds elusive. Thermal protection systems (TPS) that can withstand the aerodynamic heating of traveling at hypersonic speeds, for instance, are one such critical need. Few materials can withstand such extreme temperatures, and current manufacturing practices can take on the order of months to yield a single part, according to the release.

“Through MOC3HA, we’ve pulled together a team of carbon-carbon manufacturers, industry specialists, academic groups, and external technology providers with automation expertise to improve the production of these critical parts for hypersonic platforms,” said Brent Carey, a senior research scientist who is leading the program, in the release.

Battelle’s Advanced Materials team employs deep scientific and engineering expertise to help government and commercial clients develop new capabilities, extend the lifetime of current systems, and improve operational performance.

“We’ve also been running a strong IRAD program to fundamentally improve the manufacturability of carbon-carbon through materials innovation, and just started some innovative research aimed at improving the temperature resilience of material surfaces after they have already been manufactured into parts,” Carey said in the release. “At the end of the day, our goal is to improve performance and shorten the time of production to increase the availability of these critical materials.”

Key investments made by Battelle include a $1 million capital investment to establish an R&D-scale, high-temperature composite development laboratory focused on improving performance and manufacturability for advanced TPS, according to the release.

Battelle (www.battelle.org) conducts research and development, designs and manufactures products, and delivers critical services for government and commercial customers. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, the company has major technology centers and national laboratories around the world. Battelle serves the national security, health and life sciences, and energy and environmental industries.

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