NASA to Livestream Test of 'Flying Saucer'

Flying saucer
NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD). NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA is set to livestream a "spin-table test" of its very own flying saucer tomorrow.

The first proven sighting of a flying saucer hasn't come from alien invaders, but from NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project, which is being developed to deliver large payloads safely to the surface of planets with atmospheres, even a slight one as found on planets such as Mars.

The flying saucer carries two technologies that are being tested to help slow and steady the descent to the surface - a complicated procedure when dealing with air speeds of mach 3.5, or around 2,500 miles-per-hour, which can be expected when descending onto the Red Planet.

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The first test flight was carried out in June last year, and the the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD) - a doughnut-shaped air brake that helped reduce the vehicle's speed from 3.8 to 2 times the speed of sound - and a Supersonic Disksail Parachute - the largest supersonic parachute ever flown - were both carried on board. The test was hailed by NASA as a success although the parachute failed to properly deploy.

The vehicle is 15-feet-wide, and weighs 7,000-pounds, and it is hoped that the technologies being tested will enable the LDSD to land on higher-altitude, hard to reach places on alien planets. The project has had to find a way to land safely on Mars, which has an atmosphere somewhere between Earth's relatively dense atmosphere, and the non-existent atmosphere of Earth's moon.

Space fans can also ask LSDS scientists questions during a live Q&A over Twitter as they watch the spin-table test take place between 9-10am Pacific Daylight Time. The test will check how the equipment copes with being spun at extremely high speed.

NASA says it will be launching the flying-saucer into near-space for the second time in June this year, from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii.

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NASA to Livestream Test of 'Flying Saucer' | Tech & Science