The IRVE-3 went through a complete inflation system test under vacuum conditions in the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. The Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment III launches on July 21, 2012.
A NASA inflatable heat shield prototype is subjected to the searing hot temperatures of a simulated re-entry in this image. A similar inflatable heat shield will be put to the ultimate test during the July 21, 2012 launch of NASA's Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment 3 mission. Posted July 17.
An artist's concept of an inflatable heat shield slowing a spacecraft for a Mars landing.
Engineers checked out the Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment after the successful completion of an inflation system test. The IRVE-3 is scheduled to launch on a sounding rocket on July 21, 2012.
These NASA images depict the Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) packed into a nose cone, unfurls in space, then plummets at hypersonic speeds through Earth’s atmosphere to demonstrate the feasibility of inflatable spacecraft technology. Imaged posted July 17, 2012.
An artist's concept of the Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment 3 test vehicle deploying in space.
A look at a NASA Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) inflated in a ground test. The HIAD will be used in NASA's Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment 3 test flight on July 21, 2012.
The High Energy Atmospheric Re-entry Test (HEART) is a design concept for a flight test that would demonstrate a larger inflatable aeroshell,HIAD with a diameter of almost 30 feet (8 meters). Such a craft could one day be used to return substantial payloads to Earth from orbit.
An artist's illustration of the suborbital Black Brant 11 suborbital rocket launching the IRVE-3 inflatable heat shield prototype into space on July 21, 2012.
An artist's concept for an inflatable heat shield deployed in space.
An artist's illustration of an inflatable heat shield re-entering Earth's atmosphere and its drag effects.
An almost 20-foot (6-meter) diameter inflatable heat shield concept is being prepared for a wind tunnel test at the National Full-Scale Aerodynamic Complex in Moffett Field, Calif. The IRVE-3 inflatable heat shield test launches July 21, 2012.
The 10-foot- diameter Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) is packed, uninflated, into a flight bag that fits inside a 22-inch diameter nose cone. The experiment will launch on a suborbital rocket July 21, 2012.
Materials that layered together can withstand up to 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit (1,260 degree Celsius) make up the Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) thermal blanket. The experiment will launch on July 21, 2012. Image posted July 17.
Layered samples of heat-resistant materials, called "coupons," are tested in extreme heat to make sure they can withstand an atmospheric entry before they can be used on a hypersonic inflatable atmospheric decelerator like the Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment 3. Image added July 17, 2012.
IRVE-3 team members crowd the control of the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel at NASA's Langley Research Center during the complete inflation system test of IRVE-3 flight hardware for an inflatable heat shield test flight. Image posted July 17, 2012.
NASA engineers check out the Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE) in the lab.
NASA successfully launched an inflatable ballute concept for future spacecraft heat shields in an Aug. 17, 2009 using two-stage sounding rocket.
NASA's Langley Research Center tweeted this photo on July 23, 2012, and wrote: "Crowd has gathered for @NASA_HIAD IRVE-3 launch @NASA_Wallops pic.twitter.com/qkmjBjGI"
NASA tweeted this photo on July 23, 2012, and wrote: "IRVE-3 launch team reporting into the Range Control Center at 1:15 AM to begin launch count. http://pic.twitter.com/q4prPVfp"
The Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) was launched by sounding rocket at 7:01 a.m. Monday, July 23, 2012, from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va.