Inflatable Structure Testing
Unique equipment at Armstrong's Flight Loads Laboratory (FLL) has enabled researchers to conduct mechanical loads testing on the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) test articles. The HIAD is the spacecraft technology designed to provide deceleration to vehicles entering into an atmospheric environment from space. Comprised of a series of inflated tori (resembling a giant cone of inner tubes), the HIAD will deploy to slow down a
spacecraft as it enters the atmosphere. Benefits of using the inflatable decelerator design include mission flexibility provided by the minimal volume and mass requirements to transfer the stowed HIAD to its destination, as well as increased landed mass, accuracy, and altitude in a variety of space applications. Armstrong researchers used specialized testing equipment at the FLL to characterize structural properties of the HIAD tori for finite element model (FEM) validation.
Work to date: The hydraulic loading system in Armstrong's FLL enabled researchers to impose torsion and compression loads on the torus test articles through a series of pulleys and cables. The team evaluated eight test articles, and the data is being analyzed by NASA's Langley Research Center.
NASA Partner: Langley Research Center
'The HIAD testing at Armstrong's Flight Loads Laboratory contributed to the Agency's space technology development. The data obtained will help engineers
design better space decelerators that will meet the future mission requirement. '
Armstrong's Research and Engineering Directorate is responsible for the overall engineering content of flight research projects. Our engineers provide technical expertise in aerodynamics; guidance, navigation, and control; propulsion; static and dynamic structures; flight hardware and software; flight and ground test instrumentation and data systems; and system engineering and integration. They apply their expertise across the spectrum of Armstrong's many activities and also support the development and continual evolution of engineering tools and test techniques. Here are highlights from a few recent and particularly notable engineering success stories.