June 8, 2015
Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD). Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) launched on Monday, June 8th from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The saucer-shaped vehicle was used to test new technologies that will help NASA land heavier payloads than current technology will allow on the surface of planets including Mars.
NASA's Flying Saucer Makes Second Voyage to the Edge of Space
The test vehicle was carried by balloon to about 120,000 feet. After release, an engine took the vehicle to 180,000 feet, where the tests occurred in the thin atmosphere to simulate Mars' atmosphere. This flight test was the second of three planned for the project.
Image above: Moments into its powered flight, the LDSD test vehicle captured this image of the balloon which carried it to high altitudes. The image was taken by one of the saucer-shaped test vehicle’s high-resolution cameras. On June 28, 2014, a balloon lifted the 7,000-pound saucer-shaped vehicle to an altitude of 119,000 feet (36,270 meters), then a rocket boosted it even higher, where tests of Martian landing technologies began. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
The LDSD mission is designed to test entry and descent technology in the form of a donut-shaped airbag and a supersonic parachute that can be deployed while the vehicle is traveling several times the speed of sound.
Bringing in the Balloon Experts
Image above: LDSD is proceeding toward launch. The large scientific balloon – 34.4 million cubic feet in volume, has been undoing inflation over the last hour. When launched, the balloon and the test vehicle stand at a towering 980 feet tall. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
NASA scientific balloons are a proven way to quickly and efficiently launch even large-scale science payloads into Earth’s stratosphere — between 7 and 31 miles up — to undertake missions lasting mere hours or more than a month.
Image above: It’s been a little over an hour and 30 minutes since the balloon launched carrying the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerators test vehicle from the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The balloon is currently at 76 thousand feet and traveling west at roughly 25 knots and continues to climb to float altitude. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
For the LDSD flight test, NASA to employed a balloon 34.4 million cubic feet in volume, its helium contained by 22 acres of plastic roughly the thickness of a sandwich bag. When fully deployed, the entire apparatus plus test vehicle stands a towering 980 feet tall.
For more information about Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/tdm/ldsd/index.html
Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credit: NASA.
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