Science

NASA will launch a giant inflatable heat shield similar to a flying saucer into space this week

NASA will launch a giant inflatable heat shield similar to a flying saucer into space this week

If humans are sure to land one day marsengineers will have to invent a spacecraft that can slow down enough to survive reentry into the atmosphere.

Known as the ‘seven minutes of terror’, 2021 NASAThe Perseverance rover emerged unscathed after landing on the Red Planet using a rudimentary parachute.

But the landing process is more complicated for larger payloads, such as rockets with people on board.

Fortunately, the US space agency may have a solution to the problem, in the form of a large, inflatable, saucer-like heat shield that will be launched into low Earth orbit this week.

Once there, the Low Earth Orbit Flight Test Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID) will inflate, before descending back to Earth.

NASA hopes the test will show how the heat shield can act as a giant brake to slow down future Mars spacecraft.

The technology is scheduled to launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on Wednesday (November 9) from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, along with the polar-orbiting JPSS-2 weather satellite.

If humans are to one day land safely on Mars, engineers will need to invent a spacecraft that can slow down enough to survive reentry into the atmosphere.  Fortunately, the US space agency may have a solution to the problem in the form of a large, inflatable, saucer-like heat shield that will be launched into low Earth orbit this week.

If humans are to one day land safely on Mars, engineers will need to invent a spacecraft that can slow down enough to survive reentry into the atmosphere. Fortunately, the US space agency may have a solution to the problem in the form of a large, inflatable, saucer-like heat shield that will be launched into low Earth orbit this week.

Once there, the Low Orbit Flight Test Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID) will inflate, before descending back to Earth

Once there, the Low Orbit Flight Test Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID) will inflate, before descending back to Earth

If the test is successful, it could prove crucial in helping NASA achieve its ambitious goal of launching humans to the Red Planet within the next decade

If the test is successful, it could prove crucial in helping NASA achieve its ambitious goal of launching humans to the Red Planet within the next decade

What is LOFTID?

On Wednesday (Nov. 9), NASA will demonstrate new heat shield technology from low Earth orbit for the first time in the form of its Low Orbit Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID) flight test.

The heat shield will be launched into space on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, along with the JPSS-2 weather satellite in polar orbit.

Once JPSS-2 reaches orbit, the heat shield will be inflated and placed on a low-Earth orbit re-entry trajectory to test its ability to slow down and survive re-entry.

Once JPSS-2 reaches orbit, the heat shield will be inflated and placed on a low-Earth orbit re-entry trajectory to test its ability to slow down and survive re-entry.

If the test is successful, it could prove crucial in helping NASA achieve its ambitious goal of launching humans to the Red Planet within the next decade.

“This technology could support crewed landings and large robotic missions to Mars, as well as the return of heavier payloads to Earth,” the US space agency added.

When it comes to atmospheric destinations—including Mars, Venus, Titan, and Earth—one of the key challenges NASA faces is how to deliver heavy payloads.

As it stands, current rigid airfoils are limited by the size of the rocket’s envelope – its aerodynamic protective envelope.

For example, you may remember the ‘seven minutes of terror’ when NASA’s Perseverance rover used a parachute to land on the surface of Mars last year.

Radio signals sent from NASA and vice versa take 10 minutes for both sides to make contact, so after the ground team told Perseverance to descend, the rover took over and made the epic journey all by itself.

The spacecraft flew through the Martian atmosphere traveling at 12,000 miles per hour, but then had to slow down to zero miles per hour seven minutes later to land safely on the surface.

As the spacecraft enters the atmosphere, aerodynamic drag helps slow it down.

However, the Martian atmosphere is much less dense than Earth’s, which presents an extreme challenge for aerodynamic deceleration.

“The atmosphere is dense enough to provide little drag, but too thin to slow the spacecraft as quickly as it would in Earth’s atmosphere,” NASA explained.

The agency’s solution to this problem is a 20-foot-wide heat shield that would be placed in the upper atmosphere, allowing the spacecraft to decelerate early and heat up less intensely.

It will become the largest blunt-body aeroshell ever to undergo atmospheric entry during this week’s test.

After delivering its primary payload, a polar orbiting weather satellite, LOFTID will be released to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.

It will decelerate from hypersonic, more than 25 times the speed of sound, to subsonic flight, less than 609 miles per hour.

NASA hopes the test will show how the heat shield can act as a giant brake to slow down future Mars spacecraft

NASA hopes the test will show how the heat shield can act as a giant brake to slow down future Mars spacecraft

The heat shield will be launched into space on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, along with the JPSS-2 weather satellite in polar orbit

The heat shield will be launched into space on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, along with the JPSS-2 weather satellite in polar orbit

If the test is successful, it could prove crucial in helping NASA achieve its ambitious goal of launching humans to the Red Planet within the next decade

If the test is successful, it could prove crucial in helping NASA achieve its ambitious goal of launching humans to the Red Planet within the next decade

During flight, the real-time beacon periodically transmits limited data while sensors and cameras collect a more comprehensive data set that is stored on an internal data recorder and an ejectable data recorder that is jettisoned and returned upon re-entry.

LOFTID will deploy a parachute to provide a soft spray and will be retrieved from the Pacific Ocean.

NASA said the demonstration is poised to “revolutionize” the way it delivers cargo to atmospheric planetary destinations.

It adds that the inflatable decelerator technology is scalable for both crewed and large robotic missions to Mars.

NASA plans to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s after the first moon landing

Mars has become the next giant leap for mankind’s space exploration.

But before humans reach the red planet, astronauts will take a series of small steps by returning to the moon for a one-year mission.

Details of the lunar orbit mission were released as part of a timeline of events leading up to missions to Mars in the 2030s.

NASA unveiled its four-phase plan (pictured) that it hopes will one day allow humans to visit Mars at the Humans to Mars summit in Washington yesterday.  This will entail multiple missions to the Moon in the coming decades

NASA unveiled its four-phase plan (pictured) that it hopes will one day allow humans to visit Mars at the Humans to Mars summit in Washington yesterday. This will entail multiple missions to the Moon in the coming decades

In May 2017, Greg Williams, deputy assistant administrator for policy and plans at the NASAoutlined the space agency’s four-step plan it hopes will one day allow humans to visit Mars, as well as its expected timeline.

First and second phase will involve multiple journeys into lunar space, to enable the construction of habitats to provide the setting for the journey.

The final piece of hardware delivered would be the actual deep space transport vehicle that would later be used to transport the crew to Mars.

And a one-year simulation of life on Mars will be carried out in 2027.

The third and fourth phases will begin after 2030 and will involve permanent crewed expeditions to the Martian system and the Martian surface.



#NASA #launch #giant #inflatable #heat #shield #similar #flying #saucer #space #week

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button