The saucer-shaped craft is designed to enable astronauts to land on the surface of Mars, was launched from stratosphere by balloon into Earth’s atmosphere. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The $150 million experimental flight tested a novel vehicle designed to deliver heavier spacecraftand and astronauts to the Red planet.
According to NASA: A high-altitude balloon launch occurred at 8:45 a.m. HST (11:45 a.m. PDT/2:45 p.m. EDT) from the Hawaiian island facility. At 11:05 a.m. HST (2:05 p.m. PDT/5:05 p.m. EDT), the LDSD test vehicle dropped away from the balloon as planned and began powered flight. The balloon and test vehicle were about 120,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean at the time of the drop. The vehicle splashed down in the ocean at approximately 11:35 a.m. HST (2:35 p.m. PDT/5:35 p.m. EDT), after the engineering test flight concluded. The test vehicle hardware, black box data recorder and parachute were all recovered later in the day.
Mark Adler, project manager for LDSD at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said:
“We are thrilled about yesterday’s test. The test vehicle worked beautifully, and we met all of our flight objectives. We have recovered all the vehicle hardware and data recorders and will be able to apply all of the lessons learned from this information to our future flights.”
In order to get larger payloads to Mars, and to pave the way for future human explorers, cutting-edge technologies like LDSD are critical. Among other applications, this new space technology will enable delivery of the supplies and materials needed for long-duration missions to the Red Planet.
This test was the first of three planned for the LDSD project, developed to evaluate new landing technologies for future Mars missions.
Ian Clark, principal investigator for LDSD at JPL, said:
“Because our vehicle flew so well, we had the chance to earn ‘extra credit’ points with the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator [SIAD]. All indications are that the SIAD deployed flawlessly, and because of that, we got the opportunity to test the second technology, the enormous supersonic parachute, which is almost a year ahead of schedule.”
The Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD) is a large, doughnut-shaped first deceleration technology that deployed during the flight.
“This entire effort was just fantastic work by the whole team and is a proud moment for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate,” said Dorothy Rasco, deputy associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This flight reminds us why NASA takes on hard technical problems, and why we test – to learn and build the tools we will need for the future of space exploration. Technology drives exploration, and yesterday’s flight is a perfect example of the type of technologies we are developing to explore our solar system.”