The test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator rides on a balloon to high altitude above Hawaii. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The test vehicle for NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator rides on a balloon to high altitude above Hawaii.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

UPDATE:

At a NASA telecom today regarding the LDSD test, lead engineers detailed that the key elements of the project – the parachutes, the hardware-lofting balloon, the saucer-shaped test article – all were recovered in ocean waters.

Also recovered is a huge amount of video and other recorded data contained within black boxes.

The Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD) inflated successfully and underwent over a minute of flight, much to the delight of LDSD engineers.

A ballute pilot chute did deploy, designed to extract a much larger parachute. That huge parachute – the size of a small warehouse — tried to fully deploy, but did not. Recovered test data should tell the true story of why the supersonic chute did not perform as intended.

The test vehicle is thought to have landed in the ocean at some twenty to thirty miles per hour. It was recovered intact.

The LDSD program will fly hardware twice next year from the Hawaii test site.

An LDSD site for video: http://go.usa.gov/9FBG

NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) saucer shaped test vehicle was carried aloft by balloon June 28 from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.

The test vehicle was toted skyward to about 120,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean, then released from the balloon.

Rocketed to a higher altitude and higher speed after balloon separation, the LDSD vehicle flew its flight test profile as planned. The upper layers of Earth’s stratosphere are the most similar environment available to match the properties of the thin atmosphere of Mars.

During the test flight, two technologies were deployed.

A screen shot shows the LDSD test vehicle after it dropped from the balloon that lifted it to high altitudes and fired its rocket. The picture was taken by a low-resolution camera onboard the vehicle. Earth is the blue-green orb in the background. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A screen shot shows the LDSD test vehicle after it dropped from the balloon that lifted it to high altitudes and fired its rocket. The picture was taken by a low-resolution camera onboard the vehicle. Earth is the blue-green orb in the background.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The first is a doughnut-shaped tube called the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD), with early indications that it deployed as expected.

However, the second technology – a huge Supersonic Disk Sail Parachute – appears not to have unfurled as expected. It was not immediately clear whether or not a pilot ballute was released prior to large parachute deployment.

The test vehicle splashed down in the ocean after the engineering test flight concluded.

This test was the first of three planned for the LDSD project – two more are slated for next year.

The LDSD effort is evaluating new landing technologies for future Mars missions, including how to support human expeditions to the Red Planet.

NASA’s LDSD program is under the wing of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in the space agency’s future missions.

As per local tradition, the test vehicle was blessed by native Hawaiian, "Uncle" Tom Takahashi, who dubbed it, "Keiki o ka honua," or "boy from Earth." Credit: NASA/JPL

As per local tradition, the test vehicle was blessed by native Hawaiian, “Uncle” Tom Takahashi, who dubbed it, “Keiki o ka honua,” or “boy from Earth.”
Credit: NASA/JPL

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