June 06, 2014

NASA LDSDAccording to a recent press release, NASA’s Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), also known as the “Flyer Saucer,” is ready to make its first test-flight which will demonstrate the capabilities of onboard embedded software, hardware, and other technologies.

The objective of the LDSD project is to see if the cutting-edge, rocket-powered test vehicle operates as it was designed by engineers in near-space at high Mach numbers. Mark Adler, project manager for the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said in the release, "After years of imagination, engineering and hard work, we soon will get to see our Keiki o ka honua, our 'boy from Earth,' show us its stuff. The success of this experimental test flight will be measured by the success of the test vehicle to launch and fly its flight profile as advertised. If our flying saucer hits its speed and altitude targets, it will be a great day."

The saucer will be lifted into the air by a helium balloon to send it 120,000 feet into the sky and then will be dropped for about one and a half seconds before four small rocket motors will fire to spin up and stabilize the saucer. Soon after that, a solid-fueled rocket engine will kick in with 17,500 pounds of thrust, sending the vehicle to the edge of the stratosphere. The NASA team hopes the vehicle will reach heights and velocity that will simulate the environment of entering the Martian atmosphere.

The embedded software and hardware aboard NASA’s LDSD will soon undergo a field proof-of-concept test during a live launch into Earth’s atmosphere, according to NASA.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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