1990-09-01

The Use of Inflatable Structures for Re-entry of Orbiting Vehicles 901835

Inflatable recovery systems offer the unique advantage that a large high-drag shape can be stored initially in a relatively small package. The resulting shapes decelerate rapidly with lower heating inputs than other types of re-entry vehicles. Recent developments have led to some lightweight materials that, with little thermal protection, can withstand the heating inputs to such vehicles. As a result, inflatable recovery vehicles offer a simple, reliable and economical way to return various vehicles from orbit. This paper examines the application of this concept to a large and a small vehicle with the accompanying dynamics that might be expected. More complex systems could extend the concept to emergency personnel escape systems, payload abort and satellite recovery systems.

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