CORDIS - EU research results

European Flexible hEat Shields: advanced TPS design and tests for future in-Orbit demonstration

Project description

Inflatable heat shields become more mature

The goal of EU-funded EFESTO is to increase the European TRL (technology readiness level) of inflatable heatshields for re-entry vehicles from 3 to 5, and pave the way for a higher level of maturity (TLR 6) with a future in-orbit demonstrator. Such innovative heat shields slow down and protect payloads from heat entering the atmosphere from orbit. The system is composed of inflatable structures and flexible thermal protection system (F-TPS) layers of advanced materials. EFESTO enables new space mission concepts beyond current limits imposed by launcher fairing size or geometrical and structural aspects of rigid heatshields. Morphing solutions allow, for example, landing bigger or heavier payloads on Mars or reusing launchers’ upper stages, thereby lowering access cost to space.


The EFESTO (European Flexible hEat Shields: advanced TPS design and tests for future in-Orbit demonstration) end goal is to improve the TRL of Inflatable Heat Shields for re-entry vehicles from 3 to 4/5, and pave the way towards further improvements (TRL 6 with a future In-Orbit Demonstrator).
EFESTO aims at (1) the definition of critical space mission scenarios (Earth and Mars applications) enabled by the use of advanced inflatable Thermal Protection Systems (TPS), (2) characterization of the operative environment and (3) validation by tests of both the flexible materials needed for the thermal protection (flexible thermal blanket will be tested in arcjet facility in both Earth and Martian environments) and the inflatable structure at 1:1 scale (exploring the morphing dynamics and materials response from packed to fully inflated configuration). These results will be injected into the consolidated design of a future In-Orbit Demonstrator mission.
Fully in line with the call subtopic b, EFESTO will provide advances in the three areas of thermal control, materials and structures through the design and testing of innovative inflatable TPS solutions for re-entry vehicles. It will enable new space mission concepts, which require bringing a payload from space to ground of a planetary body with an atmosphere beyond the current limits imposed by launcher fairing size or rigid heat shields geometrical and structural aspects. Morphing solutions will allow for example landing bigger or heavier payload on Mars or will enable the reusability of launchers upper stages enhancing European reusability and cost reductions in the access to space industry. Non space applications in the areas of materials and structures will also be considered.
Leveraging on the consortium background and on past, current and planned tests results in the field, competitiveness in the space sector will be fostered and key contributions to the long term European re-entry technology roadmap will be provided

Call for proposal


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Sub call



Net EU contribution
€ 295 030,00
RONDA DE PONIENTE, Edificio Fiteni VI, 2, 2º 19
28760 Tres Cantos (Madrid)

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Comunidad de Madrid Comunidad de Madrid Madrid
Activity type
Private for-profit entities (excluding Higher or Secondary Education Establishments)
Total cost
€ 395 220,00

Participants (6)