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IRDT - The innovative Inflatable Re-entry and Descent Technology, offering many advantages due to its low mass, volume and modularity and is therefore of great interest to many potential users.

The fields of interest & application are ranging from the Space Station to Planetary Science, from Retrieval and Servicing Missions to non-space applications.

The Inflatable Re-entry and Descent Technology (IRDT) concept consists of an extremely light, modular system which can be adapted to any space element and is launched into orbit in a folded state. IRDT is an innovative heat shield that inflates shortly before re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere and will then act as drag parachute.

Unlike conventional systems (e.g. Shuttle, capsules), the heat shield needs not to be delivered into space in its final configuration, a fact, that will save space, weight and thus transport fees.

The three main re-entry subsystem elements are combined by the IRDT technology, i.e.

Thermal Protection System (TPS) for Re-entry

Parachute System for Descent

Damping/Floatation System for Landing

This results in a simple, cost-effective design of a re-entry system, which will provide sufficient aerodynamic and aero-thermodynamic behaviour during the critical re-entry phase and will allow for touch-down of the vehicle in the pre-defined landing area.

IRDT Design


The IRDT system consists of three typical mission configurations: the inflatable material is densely packed during launch and orbit phase making optimum use of the space available. The flight configuration will be placed into the re-entry trajectory with retrograde firing of a suitable motor. Prior to entering the upper layers of the atmosphere, the first cascade of the IRDT will be inflated by gas, released through a pyrovalve from the storage tanks of the pressu- rization subsystem or a gas generator.
The inflatable braking shield consists of different layers of multi layer insulation and flexible ablative layers arranged on a flexible inflatable kernel.
This kernel provides the form and stiffness of the inflatable braking shield which performs aero-braking to subsonic speed while flying through the atmospheric layers.
The aero-braking shield provides sufficient aerodynamic stability during all re-entry flight regimes. For braking to moderate landing velocities, the second cascade will be inflated.
This further increases the braking area and replaces the parachute. Depending on the shock requirements for landing, a damping system may be added to the configuration.

IRDT was originally designed by Lavochkin, Moscow, for the Russian Mars-96 mission for descending payloads through Mars’ atmosphere.