Nasa’s Flying Saucer Being Used to Test New Mars Landing Technology
The final test of LDSD technology was carried out at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, on Tuesday.
During the “spin table test,” the 15-foot-wide, 7,000-pound test vehicle was spun up to 30rpm to check its balance. In mid-April, the vehicle will be flown to Kauai.
During the June experimental flight test, a balloon will carry the test vehicle from the naval facility to an altitude of about 120,000 feet (36km).
There it will be dropped over the Pacific and its booster rocket will kick in and carry it to 180,000 feet (55km), accelerating to Mach 4. Once in the very rarefied air high above the Pacific, the saucer will begin a series of automated tests of two breakthrough technologies.
The supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator (SIAD-R) – an inflatable doughnut that increases the vehicle’s size and, as a result, its drag – will be deployed at about Mach 3.8.
It will quickly slow the vehicle to Mach 2.5 where the parachute – the largest supersonic parachute ever flown – will deploy.
The upper layers of the Earth’s stratosphere are the most similar environment available to match the properties of the thin atmosphere of Mars.