The mushroom-like Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment 3 performed as expected as it plunged through the Earth's atmosphere and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean.
NASA launched a novel new heat shield prototype on a successful test flight Monday (July 23), a mission that sent a high-tech space balloon streaking through Earth's atmosphere at hypersonic speeds of up Mach 10.
The test flight blasted off atop a suborbital rocket at 7:01 a.m. EDT (1101 GMT) from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. It sent a small capsule, called the Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment 3 (IRVE-3) into suborbital space, which deployed the inflatable heat shield and then plunged back down through Earth's atmosphere to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean.
The mission, according to NASA, was an unqualified success and will help shape new re-entry systems for future spacecraft.
"It's great to see the initial results indicate we had a successful test of the hypersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator," said James Reuther, deputy director of NASA's Space Technology Program, in a statement. "This demonstration flight goes a long way toward showing the value of these technologies to serve as atmospheric entry heat shields for future space." [Photos: NASA's Inflatable Heat Shield Ideas for Spaceships]