This inflatable heat shield is a high-tech parachute for spacecraft. It will be much larger than conventional heat shields, so it will act as a big air brake, not just a flame barrier. It will be better than a parachute, because it can be deployed in thin atmospheres and/or high altitudes without burning up.

It will be deployable at hypersonic speeds possibly as high as mach 20.

This will simplify the design of vehicles that land on other planets. It will also provide a means to recover and recycle the dead equipment currently floating around the earth, most of which has become a serious hazard to operational satellites and space vehicles. Much of this equipment is still in very good condition.

http://www.parabolicarc.com/2012/07/...est-on-monday/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfF4p...feature=g-vrec