NASA plans test launch of new 'flying saucer' spacecraft

NASA plans test launch of new 'flying saucer' spacecraft
Published: Jun. 3, 2014 at 9:34 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - UPDATE:
The scheduled launch for Tuesday has been postponed due to weather. NASA officials will attempt launching the spacecraft again on Thursday.

NASA officials are planning a test launch of a developmental spacecraft at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai that could happen on one of six days between Monday and June 13.

The Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) spacecraft is shaped like a science-fiction flying saucer, but NASA experts say the vessel features breakthrough technologies that will make it easier to land future human and robotic missions on Mars, as well as return them safely to Earth.

NASA's LDSD test is designed to investigate breakthrough technologies that will benefit landing future human and robotic Mars missions, as well as aid in safely returning large payloads to Earth.

The following information on the launch can be found on the NASA website:

The NASA LDSD test over the Pacific Ocean will simulate the entry, descent and landing speeds a spacecraft would be exposed to when flying through the Martian atmosphere. During the test a large saucer-shaped disk carrying an inflatable inner tube-shaped decelerator and parachute system will be carried to an altitude of 120,000 feet by a giant balloon. After release from the balloon, rockets will lift the disk to 180,000 feet while reaching supersonic speeds.

Traveling at 3.5 times the speed of sound, the saucer's decelerator will inflate, slowing the vehicle down, and then a parachute will deploy to carry it to the ocean's surface.

NASA says it has six potential dates for launch of the high altitude balloon carrying the LDSD experiment: June 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13. The launch window for each date extends from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

Decisions to attempt launch of the LDSD test will be made the day before each launch opportunity date. NASA will issue launch advisories via social media -- @NASA_Technology and @NASA -- the mission website and news media advisories.

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