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NASA Completes Successful Test of Saucer-Shaped Vehicle for Mars Missions

NASA completed a near-space test flight of NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), 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.

Hours after the test of NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator, the saucer-shaped test vehicle is lifted aboard the recovery vessel. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD) is a large, doughnut-shaped first deceleration technology that deployed during the flight. 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, and the team is still analyzing data on the parachute so that lessons learned can be applied for the next test flights, scheduled for early next year.

A high-altitude balloon dropped the test vehicle, which began powered flight. The balloon and test vehicle were about 120,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean at the time of the drop. The test vehicle hardware, black box data recorder and parachute were all recovered.

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