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A tough exterior of heat-dissipating material is generally used for reentry modules. I am wondering if there have been any attempts or experiments at using liquid cooling systems as thermal protection during reentry. And if not, why? Too costly and complex?

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    $\begingroup$ Why use a heavy active solution, when a passive one will do? $\endgroup$ – Rikki-Tikki-Tavi Aug 25 '14 at 11:56
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that it's not "smart", I just am curious if the ideas have been explored $\endgroup$ – Stu Aug 25 '14 at 12:58
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    $\begingroup$ Let us assume that you were to actively cool the surface of the craft with liquid or gas. Where would you now put the radiator to cool the fluid? Active cooling still needs to radiate heat. $\endgroup$ – dotancohen Sep 1 '14 at 12:22
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Main problems

  1. Would be cost-effective only for reusable craft, mostly hypersonic spaceplanes (see NASP).
  2. Active cooling may fail spectacularly => Mission loss.
  3. It is hard to achieve required number of cycles before refurbishment due to thermal stress.
  4. Too heavy! -> Cannot compete with ablative/heat sink TPS for non-reusable craft.

TPS Concepts

Timeline for Active TPS

Active TPS development

Source: Current Technology for Thermal Protection Systems, 1993.

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