LDSD Test over Hawaii. Credit: NASA/JPL

LDSD Test over Hawaii.
Credit: NASA/JPL

UPDATE:

NASA’s Low Density Supersonic Decelerator will not launch Saturday, June 14, due to unfavorable weather conditions forecast for this last designated launch date in the current launch period.
 
NASA will research range availability for the coming weeks and the costs associated with extending the test flight period for launching LDSD’s high-altitude balloon and test vehicle, with programmatic decisions required to proceed.

Per a telecon on June 12th, the LDSD officials are looking at the prospect of possibly flying later this month – but the final go to attempt the flight is TBD.

First flight of NASA’s saucer-shaped experimental flight vehicle, the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator, or LDSD, has been repeatedly delayed due to weather conditions at the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kaua‘i, Hawaii.

LDSD TEST DIAGRAMTo duplicate many of the most important aspects of Mars’ thin atmosphere, NASA plans to use the very thin air found high in Earth’s stratosphere as a test bed for the LDSD mission.

LDSD will use a 20-foot diameter, solid rocket-powered balloon-like vessel called a Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD).

To reach the desired test altitude of 120,000 feet, the LDSD project will use a helium-filled scientific balloon provided by NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility.

When fully deployed, the balloon itself is over 34 million cubic feet. At that size alone, one could fit a professional football stadium inside it. The material that makes the balloon, a very thin film called polyethylene that is similar thickness to that of sandwich wrap, will lift the massive test article to 120,000 feet.

NASA is creating new technology for its flight to Mars by mimicking the behavior of Pufferfish. Pufferfish are poor swimmers, but can quickly ingest huge amounts of water to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size. Image Credit: Chris Laughlin/Animals Animals-Earth Scenes

NASA is creating new technology for its flight to Mars by mimicking the behavior of Pufferfish. Pufferfish are poor swimmers, but can quickly ingest huge amounts of water to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size.
Image Credit: Chris Laughlin/Animals Animals-Earth Scenes

Fish nor foul weather?

NASA scientists and engineers borrowed a technique used by the ‘o’opu hue, also known as the Hawaiian pufferfish.

The technique: Rapid inflation.

For the pufferfish, it is simply a defense mechanism. For NASA, it is potentially the element that links to the future of space exploration.

LDSD is testing Mars reentry technology that may well be used for landing larger and larger payloads on the Red Planet – including future habitats for the first human explorers to plant their footprints on Mars.

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