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Published: Tuesday, 7/24/2012

Experimental heat shield successful in test launch


ATLANTIC, Va. -- An experimental heat shield for future spacecraft landings successfully survived a test launch Monday that brought it through the Earth's atmosphere at speeds of up to 7,600 mph, NASA said.

The launch from Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's eastern shore involved a 680-pound cone of high-tech rings covered by a thermal blanket of layers of heat-resistant materials.

A high-speed Navy Stiletto boat based at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story was dispatched to retrieve the capsule.

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 in planetary entry and descent.

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