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Photos: NASA's Inflatable Heat Shield Concepts

Preparing the IRVE-3 Heat Shield

NASA

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.

IRVE-3 Inflatable Heat Shield Packed for Launch

NASA Langley/Kathy Barnstorff

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.

IRVE-3 Inflatable Heat Shield Test

NASA

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.

Heat Shield Coating for IRVE-3

NASA

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.

NASA IRVE-3 Inflatable Heat Shield Testing

NASA/Sean Smith

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.

Inflatable Spacecraft Shield Works, Space Test Shows

NASA/Sean Smith

NASA engineers check out the Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE) in the lab.

Inflatable Heat Shield Passes Launch Test

NASA successfully launched an inflatable ballute concept for future spacecraft heat shields in an Aug. 17, 2009 using two-stage sounding rocket.

Crowd at IRVE-3 Launch

NASA Langley Research Center (via Twitter as @NASA_Langley)

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 HIAD IRVE-3 Launch Team

NASA (via Twitter as @NASA_HIAD)

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"

Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment Launch

NASA

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.

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