It has been revealed that an important NASA heat shield demo has been able to pass the test. Check out the latest reports about this below.
NASA’s heat shield demo passes test
Just over a year ago, a NASA flight test model returned from space at over 18,000 mph, reaching temperatures of almost 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit before gracefully landing in the Pacific Ocean. This made it the largest blunt body ever to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, which is a type of re-entry vehicle that generates a heat-deflecting shockwave.
The Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID) was launched on November 10, 2022, aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket.
It successfully demonstrated an inflatable heat shield, also known as a Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) aeroshell. This innovative technology could allow larger spacecraft to safely descend through the atmospheres of celestial bodies such as Mars, Venus, and even Saturn’s moon, Titan.
“Large-diameter aeroshells allow us to deliver critical support hardware, and potentially even crew, to the surface of planets with atmospheres. This capability is crucial for the nation’s ambition of expanding human and robotic exploration across our solar system,” said Trudy Kortes, director of the Technology Demonstrations Missions (TDM) program within the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
NASA has been working on HIAD (Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator) technologies for more than a decade. Prior to the successful LOFTID (Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator) tech demo, NASA conducted two smaller suborbital flight tests.
Apart from this, NASA is exploring potential future applications, like collaborating with commercial companies to develop technologies for small satellite reentry, aerocapture, and cislunar payloads.
“This was a keystone event for us, and the short answer is: It was highly successful,” said LOFTID Project Manager Joe Del Corso.
“Our assessment of LOFTID concluded with the promise of what this technology may do to empower the exploration of deep space.”
NASA has announced that it will collaborate with ULA to develop and deliver a larger 12-meter HIAD aeroshell as part of its Tipping Point program. The initiative comes after the success of the LOFTID tech demo and aims at recovering the company’s Vulcan engines from low Earth orbit for reuse.