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NASA Tests Inflatable Heat Shield

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IRVE-3: Inflatable Heat Shield a Splashing Success

Three years of their hard work plunged in the Atlantic Ocean on a Monday in July and a group of NASA engineers could not have been more thrilled.

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.

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NASA X: IRVE-3: A New Way To Land On Other Planets

Researchers have developed a revolutionary new way to land on other planets.

Credit: NASA

Source: NASA - Multimedia

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