Heat shield that could land humans on Mars goes to space

Heat shield that could land humans on Mars goes to space
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When a polar satellite designed to improve weather forecasting was launched early Thursday, an experimental heat shield came with it. It can land humans on Mars.

The two separate missions were launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in Lompoc, California.

Both missions were originally supposed to launch on November 1, but a faulty battery on the rocket’s upper stage caused a delay. Engineers replaced and retested the battery to lay the groundwork for a new launch date.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA have been launching weather satellites since 1960. The Joint Polar Satellite System-2, or JPSS-2, will be the third satellite in NOAA’s fleet of next-generation polar orbiting perimeter satellites.

Orbiter will collect data that can help scientists predict and prepare for extreme weather events such as hurricanes, blizzards and floods.

The satellite will be able to monitor forest fires and volcanoes, measure the ocean and atmosphere, and detect dust and smoke in the air. It will also monitor ozone and atmospheric temperature, providing more insight into the climate crisis.

An artist's rendering depicts the JPSS-2 satellite as it orbits Earth's poles.

When it orbits the planet from the North Pole to the South Pole, the moon will be named NOAA-21. According to NOAA, the satellite will observe every point on Earth at least twice a day. And when you check the weather on your phone, it will be fed with data captured by the satellite.

JPSS-2 will join two other satellites, the Suomi National Polar Orbiting Partnership and NOAA-20, that make up the Joint Polar Satellite System.

“JPSS provides more than twice-daily observations over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, which helps meteorologists monitor weather systems that we cannot use weather balloons and only limited buoys compared to the dense network of weather stations on land,” said Jordan Gerth. meteorologist and satellite scientist with NOAA’s National Weather Service prior to launch.

A secondary payload aboard the rocket is the Low Earth Orbit Flight Test, or LOFTID, of NASA’s demonstration of Inflatable Attenuator technology.

The mission is designed to test the inflatable heat shield technology needed for crewed missions to Mars and larger robotic missions on Venus or Saturn’s moon Titan. Something like LOFTID can also be used when returning heavy loads to Earth.

Sending robotic explorers or humans to other worlds with an atmosphere can be difficult because the available airshells or heat shields in use depend on the size of a rocket’s cover.

But an inflatable aeroshell could circumvent this dependency and start sending heavier missions to different planets.

When a spacecraft enters a planet’s atmosphere, it is hit by aerodynamic forces that help slow it down.

On Mars, where the atmosphere is only 1% of the density of Earth’s atmosphere, extra help is needed to create the friction necessary to land a spacecraft slowly and safely.

That’s why NASA engineers think a large deployable aeroshell like LOFTID, protected by an inflatable and flexible heat shield, could hit the brakes as it travels through the Martian atmosphere.

Aeroshell is designed to create more friction in the upper atmosphere to help the spacecraft slow down sooner, preventing some of the super-intense heating. The LOFTID display is approximately 20 feet (6 meters) in diameter.

The underside of the inflatable aeroshell is visible during testing.

About 90 minutes after JPSS-2 and LOFITD launch into space, the tech demo polar satellite will separate from it when it reaches orbit, and LOFTID’s incredible short mission will begin.

Once inflated, the LOFTID will be redirected by the upper stage of the rocket.

The aeroshell will then detach from the upper stage and attempt to re-enter the atmosphere from low Earth orbit to see if the heat shield is effective at slowing it down and surviving.

Sensors in the LOFTID will record the experience of the heat shield during a hard landing. Joe Del Corso, LOFTID project manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center, said six cameras will capture 360-degree video of the LOFTID experiment.

Upon re-entry, LOFTID will reach speeds of around 18,000 miles per hour, with temperatures reaching 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. It will be the final test for the materials used to create the inflatable structure, which includes a woven ceramic fabric called silicon carbide.

It is expected to splash about 500 miles off the coast of Hawaii, where a crew will rescue the aeroshell.

Currently, NASA can land one metric ton (2,205 pounds) on the Martian surface. Perseverance rover in car size. But Del Corso said something like LOFTID could land on Mars between 20 and 40 metric tons (44,092 to 88,184 pounds).

The results of Thursday’s demonstration may one day determine the entry, descent and landing technology that will deliver human crews to the surface of Mars.

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