Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – The balloon launch occurred at 8:45am HST (11:45am PDT/3:45pm CDT) from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. At 11:05am HST (2:05pm PDT/6:05pm CDT), 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 11:35am HST (2:35pm PDT/6:35pm CDT), 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.
A news teleconference has been scheduled for tomorrow, June 29th, at 7:00am HST (10:00am PDT, 2:00pm EDT) to discuss the near-space test flight of NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), which occurred today above the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.
Media and the public may listen online at: http://www.nasa.gov/news/media/newsaudio
NASA’s LDSD program is part of the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in NASA’s future missions.