04 August 2013

Space reentry vehicles, part 4

Part 4: More on ablation


In 1907 American chemist Leo Baekeland invented Bakelite, the world's first plastic.  50 years later it would be chosen as the main ingredient in NASA's reentry capsule heat shields. 

Radio made of Bakelite 

Bakelite was a good choice for spacecraft heat shields because it's a good insulator of heat; it has high strength;  it has an abundance of carbon (a material with a high latent heat); and it has an ability to char rather than melt at high temperature.