NASA says an experimental heat shield for future spacecraft landings has successfully survived a test launch that brought it through the earth's atmosphere at speeds of up to 7,600 mph.
The demonstration launch occurred Monday at the Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore. The agency says the Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment separated from the launch vehicle's nose cone about 280 miles over the Atlantic Ocean off North Carolina after a 20-minute flight. A high-speed Navy Stiletto boat is attempting to retrieve the 680-pound heat shield.
The purpose of the launch was to determine whether a space capsule can use an inflatable outer shell to slow and protect itself as it enters an atmosphere at hypersonic speed during a planetary entry and descent.