NASA will perform a second test of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) on Tuesday, June 2 after 1:30 p.m EDT. The vehicle accomplished a successful first test flight on June 28, 2014, and the tests could lead to improved explorations on Mars.
The "rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle" will be launched into near space from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. In the test run, a balloon will carry the craft to an altitude of 120,000 feet before being released. A booster rocket will then shoot the vehicle to 180,000 feet, where it will accelerate upwards at supersonic speeds. The new space vehicle will move at about three times the speed of sound until a tube-shaped decelerator built into its infrastructure will inflate and slow it down. Following the deceleration, a parachute will inflate and gently place the vehicle on the ocean's surface.
The purposed of the launch is to test the supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator (SIAD) and the parachute the will carry LDSD back to Earth. The NASA team hopes to use these breakthrough devices to double the current amount of payload (1.5 metric tons) to Mars' surface. This could potentially broaden the amount of the Red Planet's surface that we are able to explore. The innovations will also help improve the landing accuracy from a margin of about 6.5 miles to an impressive one mile range.
The LDSD project is led by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and sponsored by NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington.