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Video: NASA rockets inflatable heat shield 124 miles up, deploys it successfully

Tim Stevens

Space is mighty cool and the Earth's atmosphere isn't particularly hot either (most of it, anyway), but when you transition from one to the other a lot of friction can be generated. NASA typically uses gas-generating ablative shields for smaller orbiters and of course everyone is familiar with the silica tiles on the bottom of the space shuttle, but now it's tested a rather more lightweight and compact option: an inflatable shield. It's comprised of layers of silicon-coated kevlar fabric that, at least for this initial test, inflates in 90 seconds and forms a sort of saucer shape that's just perfect for keeping MUFON's phone lines busy. There's a dizzying video of it being blasted out of the atmosphere just after the break, and we think you'll be seeing plenty more of this tech deployed on future martian landers and the like.

[Via Gizmodo]

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