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Source: The post is based on the article “NASA completes LOFTID technology demonstration designed to land humans on Mars” published in Indian Express on 15th November 2022
What is the News?
NASA has completed the technology demonstration of its Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator(LOFTID) mission.
What is the LOFTID Mission?
LOFTID is a partnership between NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and United Launch Alliance (ULA).
Aim: To demonstrate a Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) or aeroshell technology that could one day help land humans on Mars.
Features: 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.
What is the significance of HIAD technology?
Firstly, 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 to this is HIAD technology that can be deployed to a scale much larger than the shroud.
Secondly, it could potentially be used for bringing back rocket assets after they are launched.
Thirdly, 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.
Fourthly, it could be used to bring back massive objects back from Earth’s orbit, like items from the International Space Station.