NASA completes heat shield testing for future Mars vehicles

Washington: NASA has successfully completed key heat shield tests for the future exploration spacecrafts that will scout the Red Planet for signs of life.

NASA’s Adaptive Deployable Entry and Placement Technology (ADEPT) is a mechanically-deployable heat shield concept using carbon fabric – a flexible heat shield that expands to “open” like an umbrella.

Recently, engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California successfully completed heating simulation testing of an ADEPT model under conditions akin to entering the Martian atmosphere.

During the tests, the surface temperatures on the test article reached 1,704 degrees Celsius.

Extensive instrumentation and imaging products from the test will be used to validate how materials respond to the testing conditions, the US space agency said in a statement.

The testing approach demonstrated with this test will enable future, more extensive testing of the ADEPT configuration – toward possible future use of the system on missions bigger than anything NASA’s ever flown.

As NASA missions to Mars progress with science and complex human exploration missions, spacecraft will require larger heat shields to protect against the extreme heat of entering a planet’s atmosphere and decelerating at a safe altitude in the thin Martian atmosphere.

Today’s rockets have limited space to accommodate spacecraft and their heat shields.