June 28, NASA tested the LDSD , which stands for Low Density Supersonic Decelerator . Behind this statement a new type of parachute lies “supersonic“, much larger than those currently in use. The project is aimed at exploration missions to Mars to allow the landing of heavy loads (and delicate), on the surface of the Red Planet are not enough conventional parachute, a technology tried and tested but no longer in step with the needs ( it is, moreover, for projects in the 70’s). For the experimental launch was used the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility, near the island of Kauai, Hawaii , at 8.40 local.
LDSD has a length of 30.5 meters, and is paired with two devices similar to flying saucers, the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic decelerators (SIADs). One of the SIAD is 6 meters wide, while the other measures 8 meters. The vehicle used for the test (with a weight of 3.175kg) was attached to a balloon filled with helium, which rose up to 36.5 kilometers high into the stratosphere. At this point the vehicle is off the ball, and used its thrusts to go up to 55 km, reaching a speed of Mach 4 (four times the speed of sound). The altitude was chosen to simulate the Martian atmosphere, which is only 1% denser than the Earth, at sea level.
In return phase to the surface, the SIAD would have to swell and slow the vehicle test, making it off the speed at Mach 2.5, with the subsequent intervention of the parachute, which would have allowed a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. During the tests, however, the system did not work perfectly : the SIAD is inflated correctly, but the parachute did not open properly.Despite all the landing was successful (at 23.40 Italian time). The scientists were satisfied: the test is not carried out properly are still considered very valuable, because they allow to understand the mistakes.