High-altitude balloon lifts space reentry capsule for flight test. (Near Space Corporation)

A prototype capsule that one day will return science experiments to Earth was tested by releasing it from a high-altitude balloon. Technology like this capsule could one day return biological samples and other small payloads from space in a relatively short time. The balloon was launched to an altitude of about 20 miles. The capsule was released and descended at a velocity similar to what it would experience during an actual entry from space.

The flight data provided the first validation of the Federal Aviation Administration's Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) tracking technology in an Earth reentry vehicle descent trajectory. The test also confirmed the ability to transmit through an Ames-developed thermal protection material that is transparent to radio frequencies.