Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD-2)

Artist's conceptual drawing simulating HIAD atomospheric entry and aeroshell deployment.

The Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) project is an enabling technology that will accommodate the atmospheric entry of heavy payloads to planetary bodies such as Mars. HIAD overcomes size and weight limitations of current rigid systems by utilizing inflatable softgood materials that can be packed into a small volume and deployed to form a large aeroshell before atmospheric entry.

The inflatable aeroshell, using high temperature advanced flexible material systems, will enable atmospheric entry to planetary bodies and the landing of heavy payloads (>20 metric tons). The Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) project is focused on development of the inflatable aeroshell technology and manufacturing capability at large scale, to support an orbital atmospheric entry flight experiment at earth and Mars. HIAD overcomes size and weight limitations of current rigid systems by utilizing inflatable soft-goods materials that can be packed into a small volume and deployed to form a large aeroshell before atmospheric entry.

The HIAD design consists of an inflatable structure that addresses the drag forces, and a protective flexible thermal protection system (F-TPS) that combats the thermal loading. Hypersonic spacecraft entering the atmospheres of planets are traveling so fast that they create a high-energy pressure wave. This pressure wave entraps and rapidly compresses atmospheric gases, resulting in drag forces that decelerate the vehicle and thermal loads that heat the vehicle.

Normally, flexible materials would not be able to withstand the drag forces a spacecraft would encounter during atmospheric entry; however, the inflatable structure is constructed out of a fastened series of pressurized concentric tubes, or tori, that form an exceptionally strong blunt cone-shaped structure. The tori are constructed from braided synthetic fibers that are 15 times stronger than steel. Though the inflatable structure has the capability to withstand temperatures be yond 400 °C, the HIAD relies on the F-TPS to survive entry temperatures.

Principal Technologist Project Manager
Michelle Munk (michelle.m.munk@nasa.gov) Robert G. Bryant  (robert.g.bryant@nasa.gov)

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