Date of Award

Summer 8-17-2017

Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil Engineering


William G. Davids

Second Committee Member

Andrew J. Goupee

Third Committee Member

Roberto A. Lopez-Anido

Additional Committee Members

Eric N. Landis

Sethil S. Vel


The Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) system being developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an inflatable structure composed of multiple, concentric, pressurized tori, load straps, and a thermal protection system. The HIAD overcomes limitations inherent with the use of rigid decelerators since the deployed diameter is much larger than the packed size, which makes it an enabling technology for new opportunities in space exploration. The HIAD is designed to decelerate and protect spacecraft during atmospheric re-entry. The objective of this research was to improve understanding of structural behavior of HIAD components through material testing, structural testing of components, and numerical models.

The mechanics of inflatable, reinforced braided tubes have been reviewed from a geometric standpoint. Exploratory experimental efforts were performed to quantify the stiffness of the reinforcing cords, which drive axial and bending stiffness of the inflatable tubes. Benchtop inflation tests were performed to quantify longitudinal stiffness and examine instrumentation methods.

The constitutive properties of the braided fabric shell of tori were determined as a function of braid angle and inflation pressure. The shear modulus is highly dependent on braid angle and pressure. Independent testing of extracted fiber tow bundles allowed the effect of de-crimping to be examined with straight tow thickness measured as an upper limit.

Beam bending tests of straight beams with highly controlled loading and boundary conditions were performed for tubes with five different braid angles over a range of inflation pressures. These data sets are ideal for finite element validation due to the highly controlled conditions.

Structural testing of individual tori was performed via radial compression loading. Many improvements were made to the single torus test setup using fixtures provided by NASA. Methods were developed to quantify the 3D shape of the tori and displacements using non-contact photogrammetry methods. The effect of load-control versus displacement-control experiments was investigated and found to result in different response. Finite-element models using three-dimensional shell-elements were developed and compared to the torus experiments. These modeling efforts proved to be challenging and no firm conclusions could be drawn.