IRVE-3 flight hardware test sounding rocket

July 19, 2012, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
IRVE-3 flight hardware test sounding rocket
Engineers checked out the Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment after the successful completion of an inflation system test. Credit: NASA/ Sean Smith

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 .

During the an on board system will inflate the tubes -- stretching a thermal blanket that covers them -to create an aeroshell or . 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: NASA hypersonic inflatable tech test set for Virginia launch July 21

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