Before the Drop: Engineers Ready Supersonic Decelerator

A saucer-shaped vehicle designed to test interplanetary landing devices hangs on a tower in preparation for launch at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. The saucer, which is part of NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project, will test two devices for landing heavy payloads on Mars: an inflatable tube and an enormous parachute.

The launch tower helps link the vehicle to a balloon; once the balloon floats up, the vehicle is released from the tower and the balloon carries it to high altitudes. The vehicle's rocket takes it to even higher altitudes, to the top of the stratosphere, where the supersonic test begins.

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NASA has six potential dates for launch of the high-altitude balloon carrying the LDSD experiment: June 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 14. The launch window for each date extends from 7 to 8:30 a.m. HST (10 to 11:30 a.m. PDT and 1 to 2:30 p.m. EDT).

This image was taken during the vehicle's Integrated System Test, an operations rehearsal that engaged all of the teams and systems required for launch and flight, and ran through activities that will be conducted before and during launch, ascent, powered drop and flight.

Source: NASA
Date: May 22, 2014