Photo worth seeing: A heat shield to inflate

heat shield

This "flying saucer" could become important for future space missions. Because this six meter disc is a new type of inflatable heat shield for space missions

When space probes or manned spaceships want to return to Earth or land on a planet with an atmosphere, they are exposed to strong frictional forces: Their rapid flight through the gas envelope heats up their outer shell to several thousand degrees. At the same time, the friction on the air particles slows down the flight of the spacecraft and thus makes a decisive contribution to slowing it down for landing. The stronger the friction, the more effectively the spaceship is slowed down.

The catch, however: the outer shell of most space probes and space capsules would not withstand the enormous heat when entering the atmosphere. That's why they need a heat shield. This protective shield, usually shaped like a flat-conical hat, absorbs the heat generated by friction in the atmosphere. However, such a heat shield can only have a certain maximum size so far, because otherwise it would not fit into the launcher at launch. For a planet with a thin gas envelope like Mars, this means that a conventional rigid heat shield would not be large enough to adequately slow down a heavy manned space capsule.

The heat shield shown here is intended to change this because it is inflatable. This allows it to reach a diameter of six meters without taking up too much space when the rocket is launched. NASA will test how well this system works on November 1, 2022 during a test flight into low Earth orbit. In this "Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator", LOFTID for short, a test capsule with the inflatable heat shield is sent back to earth after arriving in earth orbit. Gauges on the shield and pod will then determine how well the deceleration and heat protection are working through this system.

Recent Articles

Related Stories