An experimental heat shield for spacecraft showed further declines in its effectiveness on Monday in a test that withstood the heat generated by crossing the Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 12,200 kph (7,600 mph), NASA said.
The rocket to carry out the experiment took off Monday from Wallops Flight facility on the east coast of Virginia. The trial used a cone covered with several layers of high-tech materials resistant to heat with a weight of 308 kilograms (680 pounds).
The Reentry Vehicle Experiment Inflatable or IRVE-3, was sent into space with a Black Brant rocket, three stages to a suborbital flight.
The IRVE-3 was separated from the launch vehicle six minutes after takeoff, about 450 kilometers (280 miles) from North Carolina on the Atlantic.
A pumped nitrogen inflation system within the IRVE-3 until it expanded and took on a shape similar to a mushroom than three meters (10 feet) in diameter.
The engineers in the control room of Wallops confirmed by four cameras aboard the inflatable shield kept its shape despite the high strength and heat during re-entry, NASA said.
A high-speed boat Stiletto Navy was sent to the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story to recover the capsule.
The purpose of the launch was to determine whether a spacecraft can use an external inflatable shield to slow the speed and protected from heat generated by friction with some atmosphere at hypersonic speed for a decline in income and another planet.
“We are pushing the boundaries with this flight,” said Lesa Roe, director of NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton.
“We expect to make in the future test launches of inflatable aeroescudos even bigger,” he said.