NASA to carry out flying saucer parachute test on Thursday

NASA has postponed the first test of the biggest parachute ever to be deployed for sending a flying saucer to Mars until Thursday. The space agency has taken this decision primarily due to the bad ocean conditions. The flying saucer, which has been named as the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator, will be testing new technologies for landing on the Red Planet Mars.

If there’s an improvement in conditions, we will see the test flight of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator being broadcasted live on the official website of NASA. According to reports, the broadcast will begin at 17.30GMT on Thursday.

After postponing the planned attempt of Wednesday, NASA said that excessive height of the ocean waves remains a major concern for the crew appointed for recovering the vehicle and all data collected by it after splashdown. For those who don’t know: the agency had to cancel another bid on Tuesday due to the same reason.

NASA Saucer

Current ocean conditions have forced NASA to extend the launch window until the 12th of this month.

As Mars’ atmosphere is extremely thin, it is important that the parachute designed for helping a fast moving, heavy spacecraft to touchdown is extra strong. NASA figured out the right way of doing this several decades back. It first used the method in its Viking mission, a mission that put a couple of landers on the Red Planet way back in 1976.

The parachute technology the agency is testing now is, however, much more advanced. This is obvious because right now NASA is busy preparing for its manned mission to Mars; it has plans of sending humans to the Red Planet by 2030.

The Parachute NASA is using right now has been named as the Supersonic Ringsail Parachute. This parachute is special due to its ability to carry much heavier spacecraft i.e. a spacecraft that will have humans and several months of supplies and food onboard.

Additionally, the Supersonic Ringsail Parachute is capable of landing heavy spacecrafts softly, a feature that makes it an important part of NASA’s upcoming Mars mission.

The vehicle to be used during Thursday’s test weighs 3,088 kg or 6,808 pounds; this makes it two times heavier than the robotic rover spacecraft the agency can land safely on the Red Planet at this moment.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA recently issued a statement saying that it is currently eager to see whether the Supersonic Ringsail Parachute manages to perform successful deployment and deceleration of the test vehicle when it is in a supersonic flight.