Skip to main content

Photos: NASA's Inflatable Heat Shield Concepts

IRVE-3 Inflatable Heat Shield on Earth

NASA Langley/Kathy Barnstorff

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.

Inflatable Heat Shield's Fiery Test

NASA

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.

Inflatable Heat Shield for Mars Landing

NASA

An artist's concept of an inflatable heat shield slowing a spacecraft for a Mars landing.

IRVE-3 Heat Shield Inflation Check

NASA/Sean Smith

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.

NASA's Inflatable Re-Entry Vehicle Experiment 3

NASA/AMA

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.

IRVE-3 Inflatable Heat Shield Deploys

NASA/AMA

An artist's concept of the Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment 3 test vehicle deploying in space.

Inflatable Heat Shield Inflated on Earth

NASA

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.

Inflatable Heat Shield HEART

NASA

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.

IRVE-3 Heat Shield Launch Animation

NASA

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.

Inflatable Heat Shield Above Earth

NASA

An artist's concept for an inflatable heat shield deployed in space.

Inflatable Heat Shield's Drag to Earth

NASA

An artist's illustration of an inflatable heat shield re-entering Earth's atmosphere and its drag effects.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.