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What are the differences and why did SpaceX prefer to use PICA?

Image of Dragon Spacecraft with PICA - X heat shield.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting question! Is it possible to add a link or reference to a source supporting that SpaceX does use PICA? How do we know this is true? Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jan 9 at 0:17
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    $\begingroup$ When NASA invented it, the claim was that it was lighter and cheaper. I guess that worked out! $\endgroup$ Jan 12 at 21:51
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PICA is less dense than other materials and enables a lighter heatshield.

Previous materials like fully-dense Carbon Phenolic (heritage entry grade Carbon Phenolic) used on more extreme missions like Pioneer Venus and the Galileo probe are propbably overkill for a LEO entry and are no longer capable of being produced:

It doesn't hurt that NASA strongly supported SpaceX in making its cargo Dragon heatshield:

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