NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), a flying saucer that will one day transport cargo to Mars, will take to space in June.
NASA said large high-altitude balloons will loft the LDSD into space in a new test to examine the capabilities of the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD), an eight meter long, doughnut-shaped air brake, and the Supersonic Disk Sail (SSDS) parachute, the largest supersonic parachute ever deployed.
In the June test, LDSD will lift-off from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The vehicle will be lifted by the balloons before being released for descent to Earth.
The test will be the first of two such tests scheduled this year. NASA said the tests will focus on the SIAD-E and SSDS technologies, incorporating lessons learned during the 2014 test. Changes planned for the SSDS parachute include a rounder shape and structural reinforcement.
The UFO-shaped LDSD is designed to land massive payloads on Mars, asteroids and other planets. LDSD will be critical to supporting the United States’ manned Mars mission scheduled for the 2030s.