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A balloon carrying a test vehicle for JPL’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project lifted off from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on Kauai, Hawaii over the weekend.
The saucer-shaped LDSD vehicle is designed to test entry and descent technologies for future missions on Mars and other planets. This is the second of three planned test flights.
After liftoff, the balloon carrying the LDSD test vehicle will slowly float upward, taking about two-and-a-half hours to reach an altitude of 120,000 feet (37,000 meters). At that point, the balloon will release the vehicle, and a rocket engine on the vehicle will kick in, boosting the craft to an altitude of 180,000 feet (55,000 meters) – the top of the stratosphere.
Upon reaching its maximum altitude, the test vehicle will be traveling at approximately Mach 4. The test vehicle will deploy the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD) at Mach 3. The SIAD decelerates the vehicle to approximately Mach 2.4. The test vehicle will then deploy a mammoth parachute, the Supersonic Ringsail Parachute, which will further decelerate the vehicle and carry it safely to a controlled water impact about 40 minutes after being dropped from the balloon.
More information on LDSD is online at: www.nasa.gov/ldsd.