Washington, June 3 (ANI): NASA’s flying saucer-shaped test vehicle is ready to fly from the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, for its first engineering shakeout flight.
The first launch opportunity for the test vehicle is June 3, when the launch window opens at 8:30 a.m. HST.
Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for Space Technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said the agency is moving forward and getting ready for Mars as part of NASA’s Evolvable Mars campaign.
He said that they have two more vehicles in the works for next year.
As NASA plans increasingly ambitious robotic missions to Mars, laying the groundwork for even more complex human science expeditions to come, accommodating extended stays for explorers on the Martian surface will require larger and heavier spacecraft.
The objective of the LDSD project is to see if the cutting-edge, rocket-powered test vehicle operates as it was designed-in near-space at high Mach numbers.
“We use a helium balloon-that, when fully inflated, would fit snugly into Pasadena’s Rose Bowl-to lift our vehicle to 120,000 feet,” said Adler. “From there we drop it for about one and a half seconds. After that, it’s all about going higher and faster-and then it’s about putting on the brakes.”
A fraction of a second after dropping from the balloon, and a few feet below it, four small rocket motors will fire to spin up and gyroscopically stabilize the saucer. A half second later, a Star 48B long-nozzle, solid-fueled rocket engine will kick in with 17,500 pounds of thrust, sending the test vehicle to the edge of the stratosphere.
“Our goal is to get to an altitude and velocity which simulates the kind of environment one of our vehicles would encounter when it would fly in the Martian atmosphere,” said Ian Clark, principal investigator of the LDSD project at JPL. “We top out at about 180,000 feet and Mach 4. Then, as we slow down to Mach 3.8, we deploy the first of two new atmospheric braking systems.”(ANI)