The Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) is an inflatable heat shield effective at hypersonic velocities
The IRVE-3 rolls up into and stows in the nosecone of a sounding rocket before flight
Inflated, the IRVE-3 reaches a diameter of 10 feet (3 m)
The IRVE-3 is supported by a series of high-tech rings that inflate in flight
Legendary science fiction author Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) scored another hit in the prediction department on Monday, July 23, 2012 when NASA tested an inflatable heat shield that he foresaw back in the 1980s. The test of the Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) was launched by rocket into a suborbital trajectory from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, VA. The unmanned vehicle reached velocities of up to 7,600 mph (12,231 kph), yet was protected from atmospheric heating by the mushroom-shaped shield.
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