After a fightback with the weather conditions NASA confirmed its trial and has successfully test-flown its “flying saucer” – the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) on Saturday.
A saucer-shaped vehicle was attached to a high-altitude balloon 963,000m3 helium-filled before being released 120,000 above the Pacific Ocean, completing a successful test of technology that could be used to land on Mars.
The Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator is a re-entry concept for the futuristic journey towards Mars. The craft works by inflating a “Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator” (SIAD), which NASA describes as a “large, doughnut-shaped first deceleration technology that deployed during the flight.”
Saturday’s launch tested the flight capabilities of the LDSD vehicle as well as two landing technologies: The SIAD was deployed successfully but the enormous parachute the Supersonic Disk Sail Parachute failed to deploy properly, NASA said.
The LDSD test flight began at 2:45 p.m. EDT and the vehicle launched from the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii and splashed down into the Pacific at 5:35 p.m. EDT, NASA said.
“We are thrilled about yesterday’s test,” said Mark Adler, project manager for LDSD at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “The test vehicle worked beautifully, and we met all of our flight objectives. We have recovered all the vehicle hardware and data recorders and will be able to apply all of the lessons learned from this information to our future flights.”
“Because our vehicle flew so well, we had the chance to earn ‘extra credit’ points with the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator [SIAD],” said Ian Clark, principal investigator for LDSD at JPL. “All indications are that the SIAD deployed flawlessly, and because of that, we got the opportunity to test the second technology, the enormous supersonic parachute, which is almost a year ahead of schedule.”
However the parachute did not deploy as per the plan, and the team is in process of analyzing data on the parachute so that they can apply the remedies for the problem during the next test flights, scheduled for early next year.
Among other applications other than flights to Mars, this new space technology will enable delivery of the supplies and materials needed for long-duration missions to the Red Planet.
“This entire effort was just fantastic work by the whole team and is a proud moment for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate,” said Dorothy Rasco, deputy associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This flight reminds us why NASA takes on hard technical problems, and why we test – to learn and build the tools we will need for the future of space exploration. Technology drives exploration, and yesterday’s flight is a perfect example of the type of technologies we are developing to explore our solar system.”