A large inflatable heat shield developed by NASA's Space Technology Program has successfully survived a trip through Earth's atmosphere while travelling at hypersonic speeds up to 7,600mph.
The Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) was launched by sounding rocket at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. The purpose of the IRVE-3 test was to show that a space capsule can use an inflatable outer shell to slow and protect itself as it enters an atmosphere at hypersonic speed during planetary entry and descent, or as it returns to Earth with cargo from the International Space Station.
"It's great to see the initial results indicate we had a successful test of the hypersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator," said James Reuther, deputy director of NASA's Space Technology Program. "This demonstration flight goes a long way toward showing the value of these technologies to serve as atmospheric entry heat shields for future space."
IRVE-3, a cone of uninflated high-tech rings covered by a thermal blanket of layers of heat resistant materials, launched from a three-stage Black Brant rocket for its suborbital flight. About 6 minutes into the flight, as planned, the 680 lb inflatable aeroshell, or heat shield, and its payload separated from the launch vehicle's 22in diameter nose cone about 280 miles over the Atlantic Ocean.
An inflation system pumped nitrogen into the IRVE-3 aeroshell until it expanded to a mushroom shape almost 10 feet in diameter. Then the aeroshell plummeted at hypersonic speeds through Earth's atmosphere. Engineers in the Wallops control room watched as four onboard cameras confirmed the inflatable shield held its shape despite the force and high heat of reentry. Onboard instruments provided temperature and pressure data. Researchers will study that information to help develop future inflatable heat shield designs.
After its flight, IRVE-3 fell into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina.
How researchers at the University of Nottingham hope to turn light into ultrasound to revolutionize NDT Click here to read more
Arnold Engineering Development Complex updates and improves its particle seeding system with a multi-injector solution Click here to read more
Canada's National Research Council helicopter test pilot Stephan Carignan discusses his exceptional career and what’s next for the rotorcraft industry Click here to read more
Click here for listings and information on leading suppliers covering all aspects of the aerospace testing industry. Want to see your company included? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Submit your industry opinion
Do you have an opinion you'd like to share with the aerospace testing community? Good or bad, we'd like to hear your views and opinions on the leading issues shaping the industry. Share your comments by sending up to 500 words to email@example.com
Submit Your Recruitment Ad
To send us your recruitment advertising or to receive information on placing a banner please email firstname.lastname@example.org