NASA 'Flying Saucer' Air Brake Aces Test Flight
Recovery crews pick up what’s left of NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator vehicle, which made a test flight in June.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
The HiRISE camera on board the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spied a 'block fall' in the Martian arctic. Block falls are caused by layers of dust and ice breaking away and falling down sloping landscapes.READ MORE: Mars Arctic Block Falls Reveal Dynamic World
NASA launched its Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) test vehicle Saturday (June 28) from Hawaii. Although the first part of the test went well, the vehicle's huge parachute apparently failed to deploy properly — but LDSD engineers are pleased anyway.READ MORE: NASA's 'Flying Saucer' Test Flight a Huge Success
NASA’s next-generation spaceship has successfully completed its most challenging test to date: being dropped from a plane at 35,000 feet (6.6 miles) and parachuting to Earth safely. Shown here, the Orion prototype descends to over the Arizona desert.READ MORE: NASA's Orion Successfully Completes Extreme Drop Test
The view from 120,000 feet above Earth, as captured by a camera aboard a World View prototype capsule -- that will soon send fee-paying tourists into the stratosphere -- during a test flight on June 18.READ MORE: World View Prototype Balloon Reaches for Edge of Space
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Ligeia Mare, shown here in a false-color image from NASA's Cassini mission, is the second largest known body of liquid on Saturn's moon Titan. The location where 'Magic Island" appeared is circled in red.READ MORE: Titan's 'Magic Island' Appeared Mysteriously From the Depths
These images show Ganymede eclipsed by Jupiter, obtained during its eclipse, by the Subaru and Hubble Space Telescopes.READ MORE: Why Do Jupiter's Moons Still Shine When Eclipsed?
On May 31, Expedition 40 Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman of NASA sent down this image of a single piece of dice floating in front of one of the windows in the Cupola of the Earth-orbiting International Space Station.
A portion of the solar array panels on the Zarya Functional Cargo Block (FGB) is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 40 crew member aboard the International Space Station.
Neri - Livorno (I)/ESA
On 23 June 2014 a prototype of the European suborbital IXV Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle was recovered off the coast of Tuscany, Italy in a practice run for the launch of the real spacecraft in November.
A prototype inflatable braking system to land heavy payloads on Mars aced a debut test flight in June, but its supersonic parachute will need to be reshaped to better accommodate the turbulent airflow of rapid descent, NASA engineers said Friday.
NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) rocketed to an altitude of 190,000 feet after being carried into the stratosphere by a massive helium balloon.
The thin air and low pressure at that altitude is as close as engineers can come to simulating flight in Mars’ atmosphere.
The idea of the experiment was to accelerate the braking system to four times the speed of sound, which is roughly the speed that a spacecraft from Earth would hit the Martian atmosphere.
“Our main objective was to show that we can get this vehicle to altitude, that we can get it to conditions that the technologies will see when they actually fly at Mars,” LDSD project manager Mark Adler, with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told reporters at a press conference Friday.
Once in position, the vehicle inflated a doughnut-shaped air brake to increase its surface area and thus the amount of energy that could be dissipated by frictional heating during the fall through the atmosphere.
That part of the test went better than expected, lead researcher Ian Clark, also with JPL, told reporters.
The structure inflated quickly and uniformly and managed to maintain its 20-foot diameter shape with only about 0.8 inches of deflection, which for an inflated structure is “pretty remarkable,” Clark said.
Problems began with the deployment of a supersonic parachute, which was quickly torn apart as it attempted to inflate while moving at 2,500 mph.
“We’ve leaned that we have more to learn about supersonic parachute inflation,” Clark said. “There’s a lot of physics to this problem that we’re now getting new insights into.”
For example, engineers now know that the parachute’s shape is more important than originally thought.
The parachute that flew in June was designed for drag and stability in sub-sonic, steady descent, Clark said.
“We didn’t have a lot of insight into the nature of supersonic parachute inflation,” he added.
Engineers plan two more test flights next summer from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii.
“This flight was really just a shakeout flight,” Clark said.