Remember these acronyms: LOFTID . This is NASA’s Low Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID), whose mission will run a large inflatable heat shield (impossible not to think of classic sci-fi UFOs, right?) in the early 20th century. next November.
It is the new objective of the US space agency, whose goal (after having successfully crashed a spacecraft into an asteroid, in the DART mission), to test a large inflatable aerodynamic layer that could one day be used to safely deploy large payloads. on Mars and other planets in the solar system, says NASA in a press release.
The test is scheduled for November 1, at which time a massive heat shield will be launched aboard a ULA Atlas V rocket into low Earth orbit (also carrying a National Administration JPSS-2 polar-orbiting satellite). Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California—in fact, to be exact, the inflatable shield is the mission’s secondary payload with the weather satellite.) And, once there, it will inflate before descending back to Earth. If all goes as it should, the test will show that the inflatable heat shield can slow a spacecraft down enough to survive the challenging entry into the atmosphere. It’s something we could use to land on our neighboring red planet more safely and reliably.
How is the device?
It is essentially a large inflatable circular structure protected by a flexible heat shield . The six-meter-diameter aeroshield will act as a massive braking system as it travels through the atmosphere, creating more atmospheric drag than the much smaller traditional method of braking. When a spacecraft enters the atmosphere, aerodynamic drag helps slow it down. The idea is that the structure will reduce heat as the spacecraft enters the target planet’s atmosphere. (The famous ‘minutes of terror’ would no longer be so terrifying).
On its website, NASA says that “the technology [will enable] a variety of proposed NASA missions to destinations such as Mars, Venus, Titan and back to Earth.” “The atmosphere is thick enough to provide some drag, but too thin to slow the spacecraft down as fast as it would in Earth’s atmosphere,” the agency explains.
In fact, as the landing process is more complicated for larger payloads, such as rockets with humans on board, this technology could be of great help by being able to deploy on a much larger scale than the deck . While it wouldn’t eliminate the known risks of this entry operation, it does have the potential to make the blistering descents much less dangerous going forward.
This technology could support landing crew and large robotic missions to Mars, as well as return heavier payloads to Earth.