NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California has built a saucer-like spacecraft that will be used as a planetary lander in Mars missions launching as early as 2018. The Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) will enable land vehicles, crew and cargo to safely reach the surface of the Red Planet. The first Supersonic saucer-shaped vehicle test is scheduled for June 2, 2014 and will be performed at the Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility.
During the first experimental test flight of the LDSD, a balloon will carry the vehicle from the Hawaii Navy facility to an altitude of about 120,000 feet. Once it reaches its destination, the vehicle will be dropped to test its booster rocket, which should kick in and carry it to 180,000 feet, accelerating to Mach 4. At the predicted altitude the vehicle will begin a series of automated tests.
The vehicle is expected to rocket up to the edge of the stratosphere using a circular inflatable Kevlar tube called the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD), after which the Supersonic Disk Sail Parachute will be deployed.
The new design is based on the current technology that dates back to NASA’s Viking Program, which put two landers on Mars in 1976 and delivered the Curiosity rover to Mars in 2012. NASA will test the new vehicle on June 2, 2014, and the show will be broadcasted on the Internet.
Via Sploid Gizmodo