NASA: First Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) ‘flying saucer’ test flight a success

NASA: First Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) ‘flying saucer’ test flight a success
The near-space test flight of NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), which occurred June 28, 2014 above the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.

Source: NASA

NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) met all of its flight objectives during Saturday’s test, the first of three planned for the project. Subsequent tests will be used to evaluate new landing technologies for future Mars missions.

The balloon launch occurred at 8:45 a.m. HST (11:45 a.m. PDT/2:45 p.m. EDT) from the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. At 11:05 a.m. HST (2:05 p.m. PDT/5:05 p.m. EDT), the test vehicle dropped away from the balloon (as planned), and powered flight began. The balloon and test vehicle were about 120,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean at the time of the drop. The vehicle splashed down in the ocean at approximately 11:35 a.m. HST (2:35 p.m. PDT/5:35 p.m. EDT), after the engineering test flight concluded.

This test was the first of three planned for the LDSD project, developed to evaluate new landing technologies for future Mars missions. While this initial test was designed to determine the flying ability of the vehicle, it also deployed two new landing technologies as a bonus. Those landing technologies will be officially tested in the next two flights, involving clones of the saucer-shaped vehicle.

Initial indications are that the vehicle successfully flew its flight test profile as planned, and deployed the two landing technologies. The first is a doughnut-shaped tube called the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD), with early indications that it deployed as expected. The second is an enormous parachute (the Supersonic Disk Sail Parachute). Imagery downlinked in real-time from the test vehicle indicates that the parachute did not deploy as expected.

In order to get larger payloads to Mars, and to pave the way for future human explorers, cutting-edge technologies like LDSD are critical. Among other applications, this new space technology will enable delivery of the supplies and materials needed for long-duration missions to the Red Planet.

The upper layers of Earth’s stratosphere are the most similar environment available to match the properties of the thin atmosphere of Mars. The LDSD mission developed this test method to ensure the best prospects for effective testing of the new and improved technologies.

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Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) ‘flying saucer’
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Video: LDSD The Great Shakeout Test For Mars
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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Video: LDSD Test: Balloon Launch

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Video: FULL coverage of NASA’s LDSD “Flying Saucer” Supersonic Descent Test Flight
Fast Forward to 2hrs 45mins into the video to see actual test

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