NASA's flying saucer-shaped test vehicle is ready to take to the skies from the U.S. 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. The test will be carried live on NASA TV and streamed on the Web. The Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) will gather data about landing heavy payloads on Mars and other planetary surfaces.
"The agency is moving forward and getting ready for Mars as part of NASA's Evolvable Mars campaign," said Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for Space Technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "We fly, we learn, we fly again. We 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.
"After years of imagination, engineering and hard work, we soon will get to see our Keiki o ka honua, our 'boy from Earth,' show us its stuff," said Mark Adler, project manager for the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "The success of this experimental test flight will be measured by the success of the test vehicle to launch and fly its flight profile as advertised. If our flying saucer hits its speed and altitude targets, it will be a great day."
The way NASA's saucer climbs to test altitude is almost as distinctive as the test vehicle itself.
For the rest of the story: http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/june/nasas-flying-saucer-readies-for-first-test-flight/#.U44H0HYtpdi