Look! Its A Flying Saucer!

NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) looks like a flying saucer, but doesn’t quite act like one.

A saucer-shaped test vehicle holding equipment for landing large payloads on Mars is shown in the Missile Assembly Building at the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kaua‘i, Hawaii.  The vehicle, part of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator project, will test an inflatable decelerator and a parachute at high altitudes and speeds over the Pacific Missile Range this June.

In a test scheduled for this month 15-foot-wide LDSD is supposed to be launched by a helium balloon to a height of 120,000 feet, and then blasted up to 180,000 feet by a solid-fueled rocket engine.

Just like that ride a Magic Mountain where they haul you up and then just drop you straight down.

Image: Saucer rocket

As it descends at supersonic speeds, it would inflate an “inner tube” device to increase its diameter to 20 feet to increase atmospheric drag and (hopefully) slow the descent enough for the deployment of a super-strong parachute.  Sort of a better version of how Curiosity landed on Mars.

The problem with Mars, and a whole host of other landing sites, is the lack of atmosphere.  Less atmosphere, less drag.  Even if the gravity is less, most of the spacecraft sent are speeding along at several thousand miles/km per hour and currently cannot carry enough fuel to slow down.

If the test is successful, then NASA won’t need to make any more bouncing balls to land craft on our red neighbor.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +