Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment Launches
A successful NASA flight test on Monday, Aug. 17, demonstrated how a spacecraft returning to Earth can use an inflatable heat shield to slow and protect itself as it enters the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds.
The Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment, or IRVE, was vacuum-packed into a 15-inch diameter payload 'shroud' and launched on a small sounding rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va., at 8:52 a.m. EDT. The 10-foot diameter heat shield, made of several layers of silicone-coated industrial fabric, inflated with nitrogen to a mushroom shape in space several minutes after liftoff.
Image Credit: NASA/James Wingfield