NASA To Test Inflatable Heat Shield Technology Prior To Sending Humans To Mars

By @diplomatist10 on
The Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft carrying the International Space Station crew of Barry Wilmore of the U.S., and Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova of Russia blasts off from the launch pad at the Baikonur cosmodrome September 26, 2014. The Russian rocket
The Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft carrying the International Space Station crew of Barry Wilmore of the U.S., and Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova of Russia blasts off from the launch pad at the Baikonur cosmodrome September 26, 2014. The Russian rocket blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday, taking to orbit a U.S.-Russian trio including the first Russian woman to serve on the $100 billion space outpost. Reuters

Scientists in U.S. Space agency NASA are gearing up to solve the toughest engineering challenge of sending humans into deep space by 2030. It may be recalled that NASA faced global ire after an unmanned private rocket destined for the International Space Station exploded in October after lift off from Wallops Island.

Inflatable Heat Shield

NASA expects the inflatable heat shield technology, it has developed, can help a spacecraft reach the high-altitude southern plains of Mars, which has been inaccessible with the existing technology. Compared to moon landing, which has no atmosphere, landing in Mars requires a different technology, that is different from the rockets propelled space craft voyages for moon. In Mars parachutes will not work, because the spacecraft carrying humans to Mars will be so large, reported Daily Mail UK.

The heat shield, resembling a ring of doughnuts that children play with, will be a path breaking advancement. The NASA engineers have been working on the inflatable technology for a decade. The scientists are now keen to test how inflatable spacecraft technology will perform during caft's re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.

The technology will be tested in 2016. Its results will be crucial because NASA officials believe the shield could help land astronauts on Mars safely and bring back larger loads of supplies from the International Space Station. The inflated heat-shield technology may mark a big advancement, compared to the parachute-based deceleration that is a legacy of the Viking programme of the 1970s.

Slowing The Spacecraft

At NASA's Langley Research Centre in Hampton several engineers are at work to develop the lightweight inflatable heat shield suitable for real time deployment. The objective is to slow down the space craft when it enters the Martian atmosphere, because it is much thinner than Earth's, said a report in Cb. Ca News.

However, the new technology is not that complex. It primarily involves a set of inflatable rings, known as the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator, which will be filled with nitrogen and have cover of thermal blanket. During landing, the rings would sit atop the spacecraft and look like a giant mushroom. "The idea is that you would have something that could be packed up, put in a very small volume and then deployed into a very large size," explained Anthony Calomino, principal investigator for structures for hypersonic re-entry at Langley.

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