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You read that right! NASA’s self-dubbed ‘flying saucer,’ the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), will be ready for launch tomorrow, on Saturday, June 14th!
One of three concepts that NASA is investigating, the inflatable re-entry vehicle’s purpose is to aid in the safe landing of larger payloads on the Martian surface. As part of the test flight, the LDSD will be floated to a height of 120,000 feet (37 kilometers) by a giant balloon before separating from the balloon and igniting a solid-fueled rocket booster to reach re-entry speeds. Once reaching necessary speeds, the LDSD will attempt to deploy an inflatable decelerator parachute before splash down in the ocean. Re-entry technology like the LDSD will benefit not only future robotic missions to the Martian planet, but human missions as well.
As NASA has outlined in the mission’s profile, “NASA seeks to use atmospheric drag as a solution, saving rocket engines and fuel for final maneuvers and landing procedures. The heavier planetary landers of tomorrow, however, will require much larger drag devices than any now in use to slow them down – and those next-generation drag devices will need to be deployed at higher supersonic speeds to safely land vehicle, crew and cargo.”
Unfortunately, this is not the first time NASA has tried to get this particular inflatable re-entry vehicle off the ground. The launch cancellation on Wednesday, June 11th was the fifth time in a row that bad weather has hampered efforts to test the LDSD. Previous launches were scheduled for June 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 11th.
“There were six total opportunities to test the vehicle, and the delay of all six opportunities was caused by weather,” said project manager Mark Adler. “We needed the mid-level winds between 15,000 and 60,000 feet to take the balloon away from the island. While there were a few days that were very close, none of the days had the proper wind conditions.”
As NASA officials have outlined, the next available window is Saturday, June 14th beginning at 11:15 EDT. We’re all keeping our fingers crossed!
Read more about the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator: