Thursday June 21, 2018

NASA’s Flying Saucer: Space agency set for revolutionary low-density supersonic decelerator test flight

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Image: NASA

Washington: NASA is all set to test its low-density supersonic decelerator (LDSD) – a flying saucer designed to check out landing technologies for future Mars missions – over Hawaii.

If weather permits, the LDSD test vehicle will be carried aloft by a large weather balloon at 10 p.m. (Indian standard time) on Tuesday from the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.

For more than two hours, the balloon will carry the test vehicle to an altitude of 120,000 feet.

The tracking cameras NASA has employed for the test are expected to keep the balloon and test vehicle in their sights for about 30 minutes after launch, the US space agency said in a statement.

After reaching a height of 180,000 feet, a doughnut-shaped airbag will inflate around the saucer for its descent to earth.

The saucer is expected to splash down in the Pacific Ocean about two hours and 15 minutes after launch.

“The test is centred on how our newly-designed supersonic parachute will perform. We think we have a great design ready for the challenge, but the proof is in the pudding and the pudding will be made live for everyone to see,” said Mark Adler, project manager for LDSD at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

In order to support a human mission to the Red Planet, NASA needs technologies capable of landing between 20 to 30 metric tonnes on the Martian surface.

The LDSD supports payloads of two to three tonnes, doubling the current capabilities.

During the test flight, viewers will see live, low-resolution images from high over the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Kauai, Hawaii.

Four cameras aboard the test vehicle will provide the LDSD mission team with different perspectives on the test.

The LDSD mission will test breakthrough technologies that will enable large payloads to be safely landed on the surface of Mars, and also will allow access to more of the planet’s surface by enabling landings at higher-altitude sites. (IANS)

 

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NASA Plans To Install An Instrument To Monitor Plant Water Use

The instrument, called ECOSTRESS, or ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometre Experiment on Space Station

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NASA Plans To Install An Instrument To Monitor Plant Water Use
NASA Plans To Install An Instrument To Monitor Plant Water Use, Flickr

NASA plans to install on the International Space Station (ISS) an instrument that will measure the temperature of plants from space, enabling researchers to determine plant water use and to study how drought conditions affect plant health.

The instrument, called ECOSTRESS, or ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometre Experiment on Space Station, will hitch a ride to the space station on a SpaceX cargo resupply mission scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 29, NASA said on Tuesday.

Plants draw in water from the soil, and as they are heated by the Sun, the water is released through pores on the plants’ leaves through a process called transpiration.

This cools the plant down, much as sweating does in humans. However, if there is not enough water available to the plants, they close their pores to conserve water, causing their temperatures to rise.

Plants use those same pores to take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for photosynthesis — the process they use to turn carbon dioxide and water into the sugar they use as food.

If they continue to experience insufficient water availability, or “water stress,” they eventually starve or overheat, and die.

The data from ECOSTRESS will show these changes in plants’ temperatures, providing insight into their health and water use while there is still time for water managers to correct agricultural water imbalances.

“When a plant is so stressed that it turns brown, its often too late for it to recover,” said Simon Hook, ECOSTRESS principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“But measuring the temperature of the plant lets you see that a plant is stressed before it reaches that point,” Hook said.

Space
Space, Pixabay

These temperature measurements are also considered an early indicator of potential droughts.

When plants in a given area start showing signs of water stress through elevated temperature, an agricultural drought is likely underway.

Having these data in advance gives the agricultural community a chance to prepare and/or respond accordingly, NASA said.

Also read: Woman Sues NASA Over Keeping Moon Dust Gifted to Her by Neil Armstrong

“ECOSTRESS will allow us to monitor rapid changes in crop stress at the field level, enabling earlier and more accurate estimates of how yields will be impacted,” said Martha Anderson, an ECOSTRESS science team member with the US Department of Agriculture in Beltsville, Maryland. (IANS)