The Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) team checked out the spacecraft's inflation system (upper left) during a test in one of NASA Langley's "high bays."
The team laid out seven inflatable "airbeams" normally used in tent construction (upper right) and attached them to the inflation system flight hardware.
Computer software (lower left) controlled the inflation of the beams, which are polyurethane bladders covered with a polyester braid -- much like a bicycle tube and tire. The configuration of "hot dogs" (as some of the engineers called them) had the same inflation volume as the cone-shaped IRVE-3 inflatable spacecraft technology.
During the tests the inflation system successfully pumped up all seven beams in under four minutes (lower right). The inflation system hardware will be used in the IRVE-3 flight test this spring at the Wallops Flight Facility to demonstrate that an inflatable spacecraft heat shield is feasible.
Credit: NASA/Sean Smith