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ADEPT Heat Shield Works For Mars

NASA's testing of the Adaptive Deployable Entry system Project (ADEPT) has been completed at the Ames Research Center. The testing determined that ADEPT would be successful in protecting a space craft entering Mars' atmosphere. Surface temperatures on the test article reached 3,100 degrees Fahrenheit.


(Adaptive Deployable Entry system Project (ADEPT))

The Adaptive Deployable Entry system Project (ADEPT) objective is to develop a semi-rigid low-ballistic coefficient aeroshell entry system concept to perform and entry descent landing (EDL) functions for planetary missions. This concept would be used to safely deploy scientific payloads or enable long-term exploration to other planets with their associated cargo needs. The deployable idea allows mission planners to develop an aeroshell design that fits within existing launch vehicle systems, and yet prior to the EDL mission segment, transform into a low ballistic coefficient configuration. Thus, atmospheric entry environments (heating, acceleration, and pressure) are significantly lowered, allowing the use of lower heat capacity TPS and lower design loads for other spacecraft components.

For the ADEPT deployable concept, woven carbon fabric (which covers 90% of the deployed surface and is supported by semi-rigid ribs) is the primary drag-producing surface. Its flexibility also allows it to be stowable. The pure carbon fabric, with its high thermal conductivity, allows re-radiation from both the windward and leeward side of the fabric. This activity will include the detailed design and fabrication of a sub-scale prototype test article (approximately 2-m diameter) that will include as many flight-like and mission-traceable aspects as possible. The ADEPT proto-flight configuration will undergo integrated ground testing including numerous deployments, random vibration and acoustic testing and thermal-vac. Planning for the execution of follow-on flight-testing is on-going.
(via NASA ADEPT program

Fans of golden age sf great EE 'Doc' Smith recall the ablative heat shield used in his 1934 novel Triplanetary; the device was used to jump from a supersonic plane traveling at 2,000 miles per hour at the very edge of the atmosphere:

Back toward the trailing edges then, to a small escape-hatch beside which was fastened a dull black ball... He gasped as the air rushed out into near-vacuum... He rolled the ball out onto the hatch, where he opened it: two hinged hemispheres, each heavily padded with molded composition resembling sponge rubber...

...He curled up into one half of the ball; the other half closed over him and locked. The hatch opened. Ball and closely-prisoned man plummeted downward..

And as the ball bulleted downward on a screaming slant, it shrank!

...a synthetic which air-friction would erode away, molecule by molecule, so rapidly that no perceptible fragment of it would reach ground.

Via PhysOrg.

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