Feeds

Orbital skydives to follow inflatable heatshield success?

NASA steals march on Italian space-pod parachute babes

High performance access to file storage

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."

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Video games make you NASTY AND VIOLENT
Especially if you are bad at them and keep losing
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.