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NASA rocket with inflatable spacecraft heatshield blasts off

NASA inflatable heatshield.jpg

NASA technicians and engineers put the finishing touches on a unique experiment designed to demonstrate that an inflatable aeroshell/heat shield could be used to protect spacecraft when entering or leaving a planet's atmosphere. (NASA)

NASA has launched a rocket carrying an inflatable heat-shield technology demonstration flight from its Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The agency says a Black Brant XI sounding rocket carrying the Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment was launched Monday morning. It's projected to splash down about 100 miles east of Cape Hatteras, NC.