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NASA to Test Supersonic Spacecraft Next Week

posted: 05/27/15
by: Danny Clemens
LDSD's Rocket-powered Test Vehicle
NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA announced today that its second Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) test will launch next Tuesday, June 2, from the the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii.

The LDSD mission is part of the agency's preparation for sending humankind to Mars. Mission commanders aim to test new technology designed to land a spacecraft with a large payload on the surface of the Red Planet.

NASA is investigating the use of atmospheric drag as a method to safely land the large spacecraft on Mars; the spacecraft will only need to access its limited supply of fuel during final landing procedures. According to NASA, three different supersonic vehicles are under development:

"The first two are supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerators -- very large, durable, balloon-like pressure vessels that inflate around the entry vehicle and slow it from Mach 3.5 or greater to Mach 2 or lower. Also in development is a 30.5-meter-diameter parachute that will further slow the entry vehicle from Mach 1.5 or Mach 2 to subsonic speeds. All three devices will be the largest of their kind ever flown at speeds several times greater than the speed of sound."

For Tuesday's test, a descent through Earth's atmosphere will simulate a Martian descent. The test will be live-streamed on NASA TV starting at 1 p.m. EDT.

Click here to learn more about the LDSD mission

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