Watch NASA prep LDSD flying saucer test here and now

This is not a test in science fiction, but a real release of one massive payload headed for space, courtesy of NASA. What you're about to see – as early as Wednesday of this week – is NASA's second flight of its saucer-shaped Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator. That's also known as LDSD. This craft was first launched aboard a giant helium balloon from the United States Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii all the way back in June of last year. This time, it's headed for a cool 180,000 feet above the surface of the earth.

This inflatable shield craft previously reached a height of about 120,000 feet, moving at a whopping 3,000 miles per hour at its fastest. This craft moves at four times the speed of sound and – once the final tests are complete – the aim is Mars.

This craft's payload will eventually be aimed at Mars for takeoff, travel, and a (relatively) soft landing thanks to a supersonic parachute.

ABOVE: One artist's impression of LDSD craft blasting upward above our planet – NASA/JPL-CALTECH

The first test of this system resulted in a rather nasty shredding.

LDSD lead researcher Ian Clark, part of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, spoke with the press on a conference call this Monday, suggesting that they "saw things that we've never seen or imagined existed before."


"We learned a great deal from last year's flight test," said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate.

"We saw a much more dynamic and much more turbulent parachute inflation than we had ever known," said Clark.

"Things like the suspension lines exploding like lightning, moving in a very chaotic manner all over the place."

The LDSD's 110-foot diameter parachute did not survive the first test, resulting in a bit of a redesign for this second time around.


The slowing of the craft DID go as planned. As the LDSD's inflatable shield deployed, the craft's size was increased to 20-feet in diameter, slowing it through the atmosphere upon decent.

"This year I'm cautiously optimistic that we'll have a fully successful flight test," added Jurczyk.

This project has NASA spending around $230 million USD to "at least double" the amount of mass that can be successfully landed on Mars according to Discovery News.


This second test could occur as early as this afternoon (Tuesday). The launch window is a (relatively large) 2-weeks. If the 2-week span is exhausted without wind conditions lining up properly, a new launch window will be opened between July 7th and July 17th, 2015.

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Above you'll see a live stream of this event, starting with a live conference this afternoon at 11AM Central time.