NASA’s LDSD “flying saucer” test is complete, and partially successful

Today NASA tested their novel Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator concept off the coast of Hawaii.  A balloon lifted the vehicle to the edge of space, and then a Star 4B solid booster (commonly used as a geosynchronous kick motor) fired to raise it to 180,000 feet and a speed of Mach 3.5.  Then it deployed the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD) (the “flying saucer”), decelerating it to Mach 2.5.  This was the primary objective of the mission, and it was completely successful.  The next phase was to deploy a gigantic supersonic parachute to complete the deceleration to a speed that would make for a survivable splashdown in the Pacific, but unfortunately the parachute became fouled in its own lines.

So the *point* of the mission was achieved, even if the entire flight wasn’t completely successful, and it can move on to future work.  If you want to watch the entire flight this video (over three hours long) captures the whole deal:


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