NASA to Attempt Launch of Flying Saucer after Several Weather Delays
NASA is again set to attempt the launch of a flying saucer into earth's atmosphere. Several weather delays have caused problems for NASA to test technology that could be used to land on Mars. The launch will take place on Saturday now.
Testing of the disc-shaped vehicle and a giant parachute will be done off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. NASA has been using the same parachute since the 1970s to slow landers and rovers as they streak through the thin Martian atmosphere.
A much stronger parachute is must for sending heavier spacecraft and eventually astronauts. The reason behind testing the technology high in earth's atmosphere is the similarity to conditions in Mars.
NASA missed its original two-week launch window in June because of high winds at the Kauai military range.
The rocket-powered, saucer-like craft has been designed by NASA so as to carry out missions to other planets.
The craft is called the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) and its appearance is similar to something like a cross between a flying saucer and a large doughnut.
For the first time ever, engineers will be able to conduct a flight test in conditions similar to those it is designed to operate.
A high-altitude helium balloon will carry it at the height of about 120,000 feet. The height is three times as high as commercial airliners fly. After reaching up in the atmosphere, it will be dropped from the balloon. If everything turns out fine, four rocket motors will fire and gyroscopically stabilize the saucer.
"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 NASA engineer Ian Clark.
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