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Watching and listening to this amazing footage of the Varda capsule's atmospheric re-entry, what is the nature and role of the material used on the parts not subjected to the high temperatures of atmospheric re-entry? it seems difficult to cure, one can see cracks on this image,

enter image description here

(source)

and difficult to apply, one can see what looks like fingerprints(?) on this one

enter image description here

(youtube screenshot)

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    $\begingroup$ It looks like refractory cement over ceramic fibre. $\endgroup$ Mar 3 at 22:02

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According to the FAA document Environmental Assessment for Reentry, Landing, and Recovery Operations of a Varda Space Industries Capsule within Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR) South or Northern Dugway Proving Ground (DPG), Utah it is a "densified oxidized polyacrylonitrile (OPAN) felt"

The Varda capsule is approximately 3 ft in diameter, 2.5 ft tall, and weighs less than 200 pounds (lb) (Figure 2.1-1 and Figure 2.1-6). It is a 45o sphere aluminum cone with a spherical aft body as an aeroshell. The 45o cone is aerodynamically stable in all flight regimes and if perturbed it quickly returns to low angles of attack. The primary thermal protective shield is a heat shield material developed by NASA: conformal phenolic impregnated carbon ablator (CPICA). The back-shell would experience less heat and would use a densified oxidized polyacrylonitrile (OPAN) felt as its thermal protective shield.

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    $\begingroup$ sounds delicious! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 5 at 5:15

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