In news- NASA completed the technology demonstration of its Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID) mission.
What is LOFTID mission?
- It is a NASA mission to test inflatable reentry systems.It is the first such test of an inflatable decelerator from Earth-orbital speed.
- LOFTID was launched on an Atlas V 401 in November 2022 as a secondary payload, along with the JPSS-2 weather satellite.
- NASA’s LOFTID, is demonstrating a cross-cutting aeroshell a type of heat shield for atmospheric re-entry.
- For destinations with an atmosphere, one of the challenges NASA faces is how to deliver heavy payloads (experiments, equipment, and people) because current rigid aeroshells are constrained by a rocket’s shroud size.
- One answer is an inflatable aeroshell that can be deployed to a scale much larger than the shroud.
- This technology enables a variety of proposed NASA missions to destinations such as Mars, Venus, Titan as well as return to Earth.
- The “inflatable aerodynamic decelerator,” or “aeroshell” technology could one day help land humans on Mars.
Using HIAD technology for reentry-
- When a spacecraft or anything else enters a planet’s atmosphere, drag acts upon the body and slows it down, converting kinetic energy into heat.
- The large size of the HIAD device means that it creates more drag and starts the deceleration process higher in the atmosphere than traditional aeroshells.
- Not only will this allow payloads that are much heavier, but it can also allow landings starting at higher altitudes.
- Further, it could also be used to bring back massive objects back from Earth’s orbit, like items from the International Space Station.
- NASA says the technology could also potentially be used for bringing back rocket assets after they are launched.
- A HIAD device will have an inflatable structure that is capable of holding its shape against drag forces.
- It will also have a protective flexible thermal protection system that will protect it from the heat generated during re-entry.
- Its structure is made with a stack of pressurised concentric rings that are strapped to form a cone-shaped structure.
- According to NASA, these rings are made from braided synthetic fibres that are 15 times stronger than steel. This entire system is foldable, packable, and deployable, meaning that it will take up less room on rockets. This also allows its design to be scalable.