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Tech & Science NASA considering inflatable heat shield to make space landings easier

12:42  11 july  2019
12:42  11 july  2019 Source:   nydailynews.com

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NASA considering inflatable heat shield to make space landings easier© Getty 'Cape Canaveral, FL, USA- January 2, 2011: The NASA\'s Logo Signage at the Kennedy Space Center, NASA in Florida, USA.'

The heat is going to be on any potential manned Mars mission, so NASA is looking for a way to keep things cool.

Instead of using a heat shield to protect astronauts and the ship from scorching temperatures of up to 2,900º on its lengthy journey, the space agency is hoping to try out an inflatable decelerator in space.

The device is supposed to be deployed in 2022, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s joint Polar Satellite System-2 satellite rockets into the galaxy, reported Space.com.

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The decelerator is a significant option to heat shields. Named LOFTID (Low-Earth-Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator), it will test-ride without a payload to ensure the technology can safely travel through Earth’s atmosphere.

“To take humans to Mars, we have to deliver a small house,” said senior engineer for planetary entry, descent and landing Neil Cheatwood. “You need an aeroshell much larger than you can fit inside a rocket.”

Thermal protection will encase LOFTID’s 20-foot diameter to allow the decelerator to remain intact through the sweltering temperatures that the ship will face during entry. The inflatable will be composed of synthetic fibers that will be connected to tubes an incredible 15 times stronger the steel, said NASA.

“If you look at fuel-efficient cars, they’re streamlined to minimize drag,” Cheatwood explained. “Part of their efficiency is coming from low mass, and part is the aerodynamic shape. We’re looking for the opposite. We want to maximize the drag.”

Upon reentry, the spacecraft will drop below the speed of sound before parachuting back to Earth — likely in the Pacific Ocean.

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