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PRESS RELEASE
08.08.2014
Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Ride Shotgun With NASA Saucer As It Flies to Near Space

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High-Def Video of NASA's 'Flying Saucer' Test

LDSD principal investigator Ian Clark takes us through a play by play of NASA's 'Flying Saucer' Test in Hawaii, showing us high-definition video shot from cameras on board and on the ground.
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Fishing LDSD out of the Water
Fishing LDSD out of the Water

NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project successfully flew a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space in late June from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The goal of this experimental flight test, the first of three planned for the project, was to determine if the balloon-launched, rocket-powered, saucer-shaped, design could reach the altitudes and airspeeds needed to test two new breakthrough technologies destined for future Mars missions.

Carried as payload during the shakeout flight were two cutting-edge technologies scheduled to be tested next year aboard this same type of test vehicle. The Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD) is a large, doughnut-shaped air brake that deployed during the flight, helping slow the vehicle from 3.8 to 2 times the speed of sound. The second, the Supersonic Disksail Parachute, is the largest supersonic parachute ever flown. It has more than double the area of the parachute which was used for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission that carried the Curiosity rover to the surface of Mars.

LDSD Chute
LDSD Chute

"A good test is one where there are no surprises but a great test is one where you are able to learn new things, and that is certainly what we have in this case." said Ian Clark, principal investigator for LDSD at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Our test vehicle performed as advertised. The SIAD and ballute, which extracted the parachute, also performed beyond expectations. We also got significant insight into the fundamental physics of parachute inflation. We are literally re-writing the books on high-speed parachute operations, and we are doing it a year ahead of schedule."

Hitching a ride aboard the 7,000-pound saucer were several high-definition video cameras. The arresting imagery is providing the engineers and scientists on the LDSD project with never before seen insights into the dynamics involved with flying such a vehicle at high altitudes and Mach numbers.

"As far as I am concerned, whenever you get to ride shotgun on a rocket-powered flying saucer, it is a good day," said Clark. "We hope the video will show everyone how beautiful and awesome the test was, and to just to give folks an insight into what experimental flight test is all about."

LDSD Rockets Fire
LDSD Rockets Fire

The high-resolution images and video clips taken during the LDSD test flight are available at: http://go.usa.gov/N5zm

The LDSD cross-cutting demonstration mission tested breakthrough technologies that will enable large payloads to be safely landed on the surface of Mars and allow access to more of the planet's surface by enabling landings at higher altitude sites.

NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate funds the LDSD mission, a cooperative effort led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. NASA's Technology Demonstration Mission program manages LDSD at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia, coordinated support with the Pacific Missile Range Facility, provided the core electrical systems for the test vehicle, and coordinated the balloon and recovery services for the LDSD test.

For more information about the LDSD space technology demonstration mission: http://go.usa.gov/N5zm


All Related Images
  • Departing Saucer Snaps Balloon
    Departing Saucer Snaps Balloon
  • This video clip captured rockets fire by the test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator project.
    LDSD Rockets Fire
  • A Balloon's Job Well Done: LDSD in Flight
    A Balloon's Job Well Done: LDSD in Flight
  • Fishing LDSD out of the Water
    Fishing LDSD out of the Water
  • The main structural body of the second flight test vehicle in NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project is seen during its assembly in a cleanroom at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The flight test for this vehicle is planned for the summer of 2015.
    LDSD Flight Test Vehicle 2 in Cleanroom
  • The Supersonic Disk Sail Parachute, one of the new technologies being developed as part of NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project, floats in the Pacific Ocean after the completion of its first flight test, on June 28, 2014. The test occurred off the coast of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. The photo was obtained by Navy divers during recovery of the LDSD test vehicle and parachute.
    LDSD Chute
  • The Supersonic Disk Sail Parachute, one of the new technologies being developed as part of NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project, floats just below the surface of the Pacific Ocean after the completion of its first flight test, on June 28, 2014. The test occurred off the coast of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. The photo was obtained by Navy divers during recovery of the LDSD test vehicle and parachute.
    LDSD Chute Beneath the Surface

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