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assdThe 10th May 2011 it was conducted the first hypersonic test of the IRENE spacecraft demonstrator with the SCIROCCO wind tunnel at the CIRA premises in Capua (near Caserta). During this test, aimed to validate the IRENE foreseen thermal protection system, it was exploited a 1:4 scale demonstrator equipped with 18 temperature sensors (thermocouples K type). The test lasted 270 seconds with a total enthalpy of 12 MJ/Kg (or 350 kW/sqm) and the maximum temperature was reached in the nose zone with 1.800°K. The test result was fully successful and the demonstrator was found intact after the trial. The scope of the test was to simulate in real life like environment the atmosphere re-entry conditions foreseen for IRENE spacecraft.

During the test was present the ASI (Italian Space Agency), DIAS (University of Naples) and ALI Consortium (Prime Contractor) representatives.

IRENE (Italian Re-Entry NacellE) is an ASI programme conceived to allow SME (mainly from Campania and Lazio regions) to realize an innovative and low-cost space project that could eventually exploit commercial off-the shelves materials and components coupled with an innovative architecture and design process. The aim of the project is to realize a small and simple re-entry system for unmanned missions from LEO (150 Kg of re-entry mass with 40 Kg of payload).

In order to meet such demanding goal the design team has choose a modular blunted cone architecture for pure ballistic trajectory (L/D ratio in hypersonic regime = 0) with an peculiar heatshield divided in two main parts:

  • A fixed one, the “nose”, located in the front of the spacecraft
  • A flexible one, the “umbrella”, located in the back of the spacecraft and opened up just before the atmosphere re-entry phase.

This particular configuration allows IRENE to be hosted in minimal shroud reducing drag during launch phase and it allows the spacecraft to be hosted in a various range of possible launchers, in this way it is possible to minimize launch volume and orbital mass also maximize payload and reducing overall costs.