Test Vehicle for Landing Larger Payloads on Mars Preps for Experimental Flight
NASA is readying for the experimental flight of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), a test vehicle designed for landing larger payloads on Mars. The saucer-shaped vehicle will undergo its first test flight this June 2014 from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. During the flight test, a balloon will carry LDSD from the Navy facility to an altitude of about 120,000 feet. There, it will be dropped and its booster rocket will quickly kick in and carry it to 180,000 feet, accelerating to Mach 4. Once in the very rarified air high above the Pacific, the saucer will begin a series of automated tests. Among other applications, this new space technology will enable delivery of the supplies and materials needed for long-duration missions to Mars.