NASA’s Flying Saucer for Mars Landing Suffers Parachute Failure

NASA’s Flying Saucer Suffers Parachute Failure


NASA tested the Mars Lander vehicle on Monday. Most of the mission went well until a parachute failed. Details about the failure will be discussed today in press-conference. A video from the test flight can be watched below.

NASA simulated a second time a descent onto Mars using the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) or also known as Flying Saucer on Monday. All went well and NASA engineers had a lot to cheer about, but then a parachute failed.

NASA’s Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) launched on Monday, June 8th from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. 

The saucer-shaped vehicle was used to test new technologies that will help NASA land heavier payloads than current technology will allow on the surface of planets including Mars. 

The test vehicle was carried by balloon to about 120,000 feet. After release, an engine took the vehicle to 180,000 feet, where the tests occurred in the thin atmosphere to simulate Mars’ atmosphere.

The video below documents the test flight including the failing of a parachute at the end of the mission. The flying saucer splashed though down safely in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

A post-flight media teleconference will be held at 1pm EDT by NASA engineers explaining what went wrong with the parachute.

This flight test was the second of three planned for the project. The LDSD mission is designed to test entry and descent technology in the form of a donut-shaped airbag and a supersonic parachute that can be deployed while the vehicle is traveling several times the speed of sound.

The supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator (SIAD-R), which is 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. About 45 minutes later, the saucer is expected to make a controlled landing onto the Pacific Ocean off Hawaii. The upper layers of Earth’s stratosphere are the most similar environment available to match the properties of the thin atmosphere of Mars. The LDSD mission developed this test method to ensure the best prospects for effective testing of the new and improved landing technologies here on Earth.

The LDSD crosscutting demonstration mission will test breakthrough technologies that will enable large payloads to be safely landed on the surface of Mars, or other planetary bodies with atmospheres, including Earth. The technologies will not only enable landing of larger payloads on Mars, but also allow access to much more of the planet’s surface by enabling landings at higher-altitude sites.

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