IRVE-3: Inflatable Heat Shield a Splashing Success
They were part of the Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) team that is working to develop an inflatable heat shield. The technology could be used to protect spacecraft when entering a planet's atmosphere or returning here to Earth.
A 64-foot, 22-inch (19.5 meters, 56 centimeters) diameter Black Brant XI sounding rocket launched the IRVE-3, encased in a nose cone, from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore. The rocket with the inflatable on board shot 288 miles (463.5 kilometers) up and IRVE-3 and its payload were ejected into the atmosphere. The technology demonstrator inflated and fell back to Earth -- cameras and temperature and pressure sensors monitoring its performance all the way down. After a total of 20 minutes -- from launch to splash down -- it landed in the Atlantic about 100 miles (161 kilometers) East of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.