Feeds

Orbital skydives to follow inflatable heatshield success?

NASA steals march on Italian space-pod parachute babes

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

NASA has announced a successful live test of a prototype inflatable heat shield for re-entry to a planet's atmosphere. The blow-up shield could have important implications for future missions to Mars - and also, perhaps, for the nascent field of orbital spacesuit skydiving.

The test unit is known as the Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment, or IRVE. In packaged form its fabric is wrapped tightly around the gas cylinder used to inflate it - described as a "glorified scuba tank" by NASA engineers. The shield unit is 42cm in diameter and about a metre long on its own, and for this week's test another 50cm cylinder of electronics and telemetry gear was added.

After being fired 131 miles into space by a sounding rocket from NASA's Wallops Island test range, the IRVE then inflated its conical shield using nitrogen from the gas cylinder as it fell back towards the atmosphere. The fabric of the bladders uses silicone to provide gastightness, kevlar for strength and structure, and layers of "Kapton" film and "Nextel" fabric to resist the heat of re-entry.

The mushroom-cap-esque bag unit, when fully inflated, formed a circular heatshield 3 metres across. According to NASA, this successfully resisted the heat of re-entry at hypersonic speed - greater than Mach 5 - then slowed down through the supersonic realm and thus into the subsonic without difficulty.

"Everything performed well even into the subsonic range where we weren't sure what to expect," said NASA hypersonics boffin Neil Cheatwood. "The telemetry looks good. The inflatable bladder held up well."

"This was a small-scale demonstrator," added Mary Beth Wusk, IRVE project manager. "Now that we've proven the concept, we'd like to build more advanced aeroshells capable of handling higher heat rates."

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.