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Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (NASA's Technology Demonstration Missions)

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Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) Latest News

Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD)

"The future comes slowly."
-- Johann Friedrich von Schiller, 18th century German historian and poet

As NASA plans ambitious new robotic missions to Mars, laying the groundwork for even more complex human science expeditions to come, the spacecraft needed to land safely on the red planet's surface necessarily becomes increasingly massive, hauling larger payloads to accommodate extended stays on the Martian surface. Current technology for decelerating from the high speed of atmospheric entry to the final stages of landing on Mars dates back to NASA's Viking Program, which put two landers on Mars in 1976. The basic Viking parachute design has been used ever since -- and was successfully used again in 2012 to deliver the Curiosity rover to Mars.

NASA seeks to use atmospheric drag as a solution, saving rocket engines and fuel for final maneuvers and landing procedures. The heavier planetary landers of tomorrow, however, will require much larger drag devices than any now in use to slow them down -- and those next-generation drag devices will need to be deployed at higher supersonic speeds to safely land vehicle, crew and cargo. NASA's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) Technology Demonstration Mission, led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., will conduct full-scale, stratospheric tests of these breakthrough technologies high above Earth to prove their value for future missions to Mars.

The investigators are conducting design verification tests through 2013. The first supersonic flight tests are set for 2014 and 2015. Once tested, the devices will enable missions that maximize the capability of current launch vehicles, and could be used in Mars missions launching as early as 2018.

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Page Last Updated: April 10th, 2014
Page Editor: Brooke Boen