BARKING SANDS, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Crucial to exploring the surface of Mars, is first sticking the landing. On Tuesday June 2, NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator – or LDSD –will attempt the second flight of a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space. This flight test will test two new braking technologies that will enable larger payloads to be safely landed on the surface of Mars. Outfitted with the largest supersonic parachute ever flown and a unique inflatable inner tube, LDSD will test slowing down a spacecraft traveling at supersonic speeds from the edge of space, ultimately landing it in the Pacific Ocean.
Mars has a thin atmosphere that makes it hard to slow down heavy objects barreling through its atmosphere at thousands of miles a second. LDSD is working to advance the capabilities needed for the next generation of Mars landers that will send larger and heavier robotic and eventually human missions to the Red Planet.
LDSD lifts off from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii in a large scientific balloon – about the size of three football fields -- to an altitude of 120,000 feet (37,000 meters). After release from the balloon, a booster rocket will ignite and lift the disk-shape vehicle to 180,000 feet (55,000 meters), during which it will accelerate to supersonic speeds. Traveling at about three times the speed of sound, the vehicle's inner-tube-shaped decelerator will inflate and slow the vehicle. Then at Mach 2.5 (about 2 thousand miles per hour), the 100-foot-wide supersonic parachute opens, slowing down the vehicle and carrying it in for a controlled landing in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.
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