European space company Astrium and Russian space agency Rosaviakosmos are to co-operate in the development of inflatable re-entry and descent technology (IRDT).

Astrium will work exclusively with the Babakin Science and Research Centre on IRDT, which offers significant advantages in a wide range of low cost return-from-orbit applications. They are also looking at applications in space exploration.

The lightweight IRDT is a folded system that is inflated in orbit to resemble a re-entry capsule, in which the payload is placed. It descends at low speed into the atmosphere, reducing re-entry temperatures. The technology was used successfully in Earth orbit in February 2000.

Source: Flight International