The Nasa Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) launched on Monday, 8 June from the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii.
The saucer-shaped vehicle was used to test new technologies that will help Nasa land heavier payloads than current technology will allow on the surface of planets including Mars.
The test vehicle, which many have referred to as the Nasa flying saucer, was carried by balloon to about 120,000 feet. After release, an engine took the vehicle to 180,000 feet, where the tests occurred in the thin atmosphere to simulate Mars’ atmosphere.
The flight test was the second of three planned for the project. The LDSD mission is designed to test entry and descent technology including the use a donut-shaped airbag and a supersonic parachute that can be deployed while the vehicle is traveling several times the speed of sound.
However, shortly after the test re-entry commenced, the parachute failed when it tore away from craft with Nasa engineers admitting more work is needed to strengthen the parachutes.
“At some point at or near full inflation, the parachute was damaged, and the damage propagated further until the parachute could no longer survive the harsh supersonic environment,” LDSD principal investigator Ian Clark, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said during a news conference