NASA will test LDSD in Hawaii

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This April 23, 2014 image provided by NASA shows NASA’s saucer-shaped experimental flight vehicle being prepared for a Range Compatibility Test at the at the U.S Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kekaha on the island of Kaua‘i in Hawaii. (AP Photo/NASA)

This April 23, 2014 image provided by NASA shows NASA’s saucer-shaped experimental flight vehicle being prepared for a Range Compatibility Test at the at the U.S Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kekaha on the island of Kaua‘i in Hawaii. (AP Photo/NASA)

NASA is just waiting to see which way the wind is blowing before it sends up a flying saucer to test technologies on Earth that could someday come into play for landings on Mars.

The Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator, or LDSD, is at the Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, ready to rise up on a high-altitude balloon, fire a rocket booster and open up a cushion shaped like an inner tube to ease its descent into the Pacific Ocean.

But NASA needs to have the wind blowing out to sea, so that the saucer-shaped LDSD drifts in the right direction. An inland drift is no good and that’s why NASA skipped on today’s launch. More chances for the test launch are coming up tomorrow, June 6, June 11 and June 14. When the test happens, NASA TV will provide live video coverage. Should be quite the sight with the 15 foot wide rocketing up to a height of 180,000 on a rocket booster blasting off from a balloon perch.

In part 2, JPL engineer Mike Meacham explains how an inflatable decelerator will help larger spacecraft land on Mars.

 

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