NASA Tests Inflatable Heat Shield Technology for Deep Space Missions


Before NASA uses its new inflatable technology for slowing spacecraft that are entering the atmospheres of other planets, it will first need to be packed into the tight confines of a rocket.

Engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, recently put the technology to the test by packing a 9-foot diameter donut-shaped test article, also known as a torus, to simulate what would happen before a space mission.

Called the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator, or HIAD, it works like a parachute, using the drag of a planet’s atmosphere to slow the space vehicle as it descends toward the surface. Slowing the spacecraft protects it from the intense heat of atmospheric entry, and allows it to land more softly.

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