Tokamak Experiments Provide Unique Data for Validating Spacecraft Heat Shield Ablation Models

When a spacecraft enters a thick atmosphere at a high velocity, it rapidly compresses the gas in front of it, creating a hot, dense plasma. To protect against damage, spacecraft are typically covered by a heat shield material. Scientists for the first time used a tokamak to study what happens to these materials in a hot plasma. The research creates a path to improving heat shield materials for future planetary exploration.