Integrated Lighning Strike and Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) Protection Thermal Protection System (TPS) Materials for Missile Skin Structures

Period of Performance: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Materials Research & Design
300 E. Swedesford Rd Array
Wayne, PA 19087
Principal Investigator


Lightning protection is crucial for atmospheric flight of any missile vehicle. The direct and indirect effects of lightning can easily cause catastrophic failure of a missile due to structural breach, fuel vapor ignition, damage to electronics, etc. While the indirect effects of lightning must still be addressed, with aluminum skin, if it is of sufficient thickness, the electrical energy will be dissipated through the skin with only minor, local effects. This is the means by which metallic skinned aircraft handle the initial lightning attachment and it has proven itself over thousands of documented lightning strikes on commercial aircraft. Composite materials are not nearly as efficient electrical conductors as aluminum and therefore are more susceptible to damage from the high currents applied during a lightning strike. Relying on the skin alone to dissipate the energy is not sufficient. Therefore, lightning protection must be incorporated into any composite skinned vehicle that will be operated in all weather conditions. Materials Research & Design, Inc. (MR&D) is proposing to investigate at least four different approaches for incorporating lightning strike mitigation within the TPS. Approved for Public Release 14-MDA-8047 (14 Nov 14)