NASA will launch an inflatable aeroshell/heat shield technology demonstrator on a Black Brant XI sounding rocket July 22 from the agency's launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
The Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) is the third in a series of suborbital flight tests of this new technology.
Technicians will vacuum pack the uninflated 10-foot (3.05 meters) diameter cone of high-tech inner tubes into a 22-inch (56 centimeters) diameter sounding rocket.
During the flight test an on board system will inflate the tubes -- stretching a thermal blanket that covers them -to create an aeroshell or heat shield. That heat shield will protect a payload that consists of four segments including the inflation system, steering mechanisms, telemetry equipment and camera gear.
Explore further: Public consultation on space weather - how should we prepare?