NASA ADEPT foldable “umbrella” shields spacecraft from intense heat

Brittany A. Roston - Sep 13, 2018
NASA ADEPT foldable “umbrella” shields spacecraft from intense heat

NASA has unveiled a new umbrella-shaped heat shield called Adaptable Deployable Entry Placement Technology, a device capable of folding during transport. Thanks to this design, which NASA describes as “game-changing,” the space agency may one day be able to deliver large heat shields that, when fully expanded, are wider than the diameter of the rocket transporting it.

As demonstrated in the video below, ADEPT opens in the same manner as an ordinary umbrella. The design helps the public understand the purpose of this concept — most cars are too small to accommodate a big umbrella when it is fully opened, but can easily accommodate them when they’re folded.

Heat shields are an important component for trips in space; they work by protecting spacecraft from intense heat that forms when entering the atmosphere of a planet. Anticipated future NASA missions, including manned missions to Mars, could require the use of extra-large heat shields, and that’s where ADEPT comes in.

Typically an extra large heat shield transported into space would require a larger rocket, which is impractical. ADEPT gives NASA a way to transport these extra-large “umbrellas” without increasing the size of the rocket carrying them. The space agency is now testing its creation.

Yesterday, NASA launched ADEPT on its first test flight from Spaceport America on the UP Aerospace suborbital rocket. The umbrella launched in its stowed, compact size, but will be separated from the rocket once in space, at which point it will unfold. Once unfolded, which will happen 60 miles above Earth, ADEPT will return to Earth at about 2300MPH.




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