Space agencies from around the world are in the race to expand the human presence to the Moon and eventually to Mars. While landing humans on the Moon might not be that difficult, considering the experience gained during the Apollo missions, touching down on the red planet could definitely be challenging. To eliminate one of the many potential landing challenges, NASA is testing a new technology which, according to the agency will one day help humans with landing on Mars.
We’re getting pumped up about the future of spaceflight!
This fall, we’re testing a new type of inflatable heat shield, which expands before re-entry to give its spacecraft a slower, cooler return to Earth. Learn more about LOFTID: https://t.co/I103fjn4ua pic.twitter.com/DnmvRgx9BW
Short for Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator, LOFTID is basically a heat shield that is meant to be fitted in a spacecraft to provide a safer and cooler atmospheric re-entry by inflating. NASA has successfully completed the final test of the inflation system before it gets launched with a polar-orbiting satellite in a few months from now. According to the agency, LOFTID will descend back to Earth after the satellite enters the low-Earth orbit and scientists will demonstrate that the inflatable aeroshell, or heat shield, can slow down and survive re-entry before making a splash in the Pacific Ocean.
“The inflation system is one component of the LOFTID re-entry vehicle, and it is designed to slowly expand the aeroshell to its final shape before it reenters Earth’s atmosphere”, NASA said in a statement. The agency revealed that the test was performed using an inflatable volume tori simulator, or a series of rings (as seen in the image above) that use the same amount of air as the flight aeroshell. The simulation ensured that each test ran exactly as the system would operate during the flight and that the inflation system responds as intended during routine operations and anomalies.
As the tests are complete now, the engineers will integrate the system to the forward segment of the re-entry vehicle, which includes segments linking the aeroshell to the inflation system, flight electronics, ejectable data recorder, and parachute system. Moreover, components of the re-entry vehicle will also undergo integration followed by a few environmental tests as part of the launch preparations.