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Tuesday, December 13, 2011


The Research Center of NASA has developed an inflatable heat shield to protect space vehicles during reentry. The project, dubbed Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE, for its acronym in English), will lighten the load carrying ships designed to Mars, making possible an increase in the burden of 'Mars Rovers'.

The actual weight of the shields, made ​​from carbon, limits the weight of the rovers, as the rocket can only take off with a maximum load. Also, the size of the shields is limited by the dimensions of the missiles have to be transported ...

During an experiment conducted by NASA Black Brant 9 rocket carried the new shield at an altitude of 211 kilometers. Less than a minute later, he was freed from its capsule and began to swell to nearly 200 kilometers, a process that takes less than 90 seconds.

"It was a great success," said Mary Beth Wusk, project director. "The IRVE has been a small-scale demonstration, now that the concept has been demonstrated would like to build more advanced capsules can withstand more heat quantity." The idea of ​​using such tissue has been in the minds of researchers for years, but were not sure that the materials they had could withstand reentry.

The upper layers of the heat shield are made ​​of a ceramic fiber fabric, an interior lining made ​​of a polymer called Kevlar and covered with silicone, which defines and maintains its shape. The capsule containing the shield is vacuum packed in a cylinder of 16 cm, and once deployed, is inflated with nitrogen up to three meters wide.

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