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NASA Successfully Tests 'Flying Saucer' Craft, New Parachute

timothy posted about 2 months ago | from the splashdown-harder-on-mars dept.

NASA 49

As reported by the Associated Press, via the Washington Post, an update on the promised (and now at least mostly successful) new disc-shaped craft and parachute technology intended for a NASA mission to Mars, though applicable to other space missions as well: A saucer-shaped NASA vehicle launched by balloon high into Earth’s atmosphere splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, completing a successful test on Saturday of technology that could be used to land on Mars. Since the twin Viking spacecraft landed on the red planet in 1976, NASA has relied on the same parachute design to slow landers and rovers after piercing through the thin Martian atmosphere. The $150 million experimental flight tested a novel vehicle and a giant parachute designed to deliver heavier spacecraft and eventually astronauts. Despite small problems like the giant parachute not deploying fully, NASA deemed the mission a success. ... [T]he parachute unfurled — if only partially — and guided the vehicle to an ocean splashdown about three hours later. At 110 feet in diameter, the parachute is twice as big as the one that carried the 1-ton Curiosity rover through the Martian atmosphere in 2011. Coatta said engineers won't look at the parachute problem as a failure, but as a way to learn more and apply that knowledge during future tests. ... A ship was sent to recover a "black box" designed to separate from the vehicle and float. Outfitted with a GPS beacon, the box contains the crucial flight data that scientists are eager to analyze. "That's really the treasure trove of all the details," Coatta said. "Pressure, temperature, force. High-definition video. All those measurements that are really key to us to understanding exactly what happens throughout this test."

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Floating black box? (1)

MrLogic17 (233498) | about 2 months ago | (#47342707)

Wait, so did the rest of the craft & chute sink?

Re:Floating black box? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47343059)

The craft has an inflated donut around it so it should float as well. At the end of the video feed they say they're retrieving everything.

Re:Floating black box? (4, Informative)

shadowspawn1 (1750942) | about 2 months ago | (#47343511)

No, all the components (at least for this test) were recovered for examination. It takes about two days to boat out to the site, pick up the items and bring them back for investigation. In case something unforeseen happened, a robust blackbox was dropped "just in case".

fucking nasa (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47342727)

It took them 150 million dollars for one single flight, in which they dropped some shit to the ground

Re:fucking nasa (5, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | about 2 months ago | (#47343195)

No, it took $150,000,000 to design a parachute for literally otherworldly conditions, to determine terrestrial conditions that could be used to test the parachute, to design a mission to reach those terrestrial conditions, to design a craft to reach those conditions (ie, the vehicle, the spin-stabilizing motors, the launch motor, and the controls), and to pay for the staffing and research time needed to get the craft to PMRF, to assemble it, and to monitor weather conditions until they permit a launch, then to recover everything afterward out of the Pacific.

If they decide to do more tests with this kind of platform those future tests will cost less, as the platform, the mission, and the conditions are known. Even if they had to build more platforms it's still cheaper for future attempts, probably on orders-of-magnitude.

Re:fucking nasa (-1, Flamebait)

lazy genes (741633) | about 2 months ago | (#47343227)

NASA needs to stop dreaming and get to work on designing a sustainable transportation system for earth use or we won't be going anywhere.

Re:fucking nasa (3, Interesting)

TWX (665546) | about 2 months ago | (#47343305)

?

NASA has had their hand in lots and lots of aeronautics projects over the years, and really has pushed what they can do for terrestrial and near-earth transportation to the limit. NASA shouldn't be focused on these areas anymore, as the companies-of-old that built their LEO launchers and the companies now building LEO launchers have things well in hand.

NASA is focusing on what they should, which is finding an area in space exploration that is deficient or has run into a limit, and to find a way around that. The parachute systems used to land on Mars date back to the Viking missions of the seventies and do not provide enough drag for future heavier payloads, they're literally at their design limits. If we want to land more than small rovers on Mars then we need a means to slow that payload down. NASA is attempting develop that means.

Re:fucking nasa (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47343827)

I know you're a troll, but that low comment shows you have no business being on Slashdot.

You are no nerd, you are no geek, you are not interested in science and research. Fuck off and find some site that is more to your liking. Like... fluffyrainbowfarts.com or whatever.

Re:fucking nasa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47345549)

im not interested in "we made a big parachute lets go piss 150 grand away to test it"

First link is dead (2)

oDDmON oUT (231200) | about 2 months ago | (#47342733)

Actually, it's an ahref with no URL.

Re:First link is dead (5, Funny)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 months ago | (#47342751)

It's an <a> with an href of "ahref=".

If you click it you'll destroy us all!

Pictures! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47342745)

Not enough of them. Needs moar pictures!

Re:Pictures! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47342747)

For a second I had hoped the avrocar had returned. Instead the overwhelming gloom of my adult realization that nasa is fucking stoopid has returned.

Yawn (0)

djupedal (584558) | about 2 months ago | (#47342761)

The US has been messing with these things for the last 50 years and NASA finally dips a toe? Lame, sorry guys.

Re:Yawn (3, Interesting)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | about 2 months ago | (#47343077)

This is something called a low-density supersonic decelerator. It's probably a bit different from anything else that has been happening "for the last 50 years." It's meant to allow a parachute to work effectively in the low-density atmosphere of Mars for spacecraft that are too heavy for conventional parachutes or the bouncing type of landing that was used for the Mars Exploration Rovers.

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/n... [nasa.gov]

Re:Yawn (4, Informative)

shadowspawn1 (1750942) | about 2 months ago | (#47343591)

It's a SIAD (supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator) the low density part of the LDSD acronym isn't because Mars has a low density. It comes from the fact that an inflatable device provides drag area at a much lower mass cost than your normal rigid structure.

NASA did develop these systems >50 years ago then some of it later trickled into the military to slow down dumb bombs etc. Now that the landing goals are expanding to even larger landed masses this technology is being far better expanded, developed and space flight qualified. For instance, the small ram-air inflated device behind a bomb is not nearly as challenging as a SIAD around a 4.5 meter diameter aeroshell.

Rigid articles are forgiving when you scale them down for aerodynamics and behavior. Flexible goods need to be tested at full scale or larger to get the right behavior.

best you can do (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47342777)

Really? best you can do is a link to the Washington fucking post ? this is fucking slashdot, where's the mission pages, pics, videos, spec and software rundown ? ffs editors put some effort in!.

Just WOW (1, Insightful)

Redbehrend (3654433) | about 2 months ago | (#47342785)

It costed how much? It didn't work right, did not fully deploy and it was considered a success? Not to mention the material sunk? Now I see why SpaceX could replace NASA and this is coming from a Sci geek. They need to stop spending like idiots they ruin funding for all of us.

Re:Just WOW (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47342809)

NASA, how about a cheap low tech solution instead of spending millions.
Just put a thick layer of toilet paper all over the fucken package before dropping it on mars.
Bet it makes it.
Keeps an egg from breaking when tossed of a building.
Charmin might even give NASA thousands of rolls for free if an ad is placed on the side of the spaceship.

Re:Just WOW (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47342853)

It costed how much? It didn't work right, did not fully deploy and it was considered a success? Not to mention the material sunk? Now I see why SpaceX could replace NASA and this is coming from a Sci geek. They need to stop spending like idiots they ruin funding for all of us.

^^
This guy has never worked at NASA

NASA testing a 100 foot, mach 4 parachute (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47343073)

NASA's been developing a hypersonic parachute for Mars, made out of new materials for over a decade now. Today's test is for a >100 foot version of that parachute. The mach 4, >100 foot parachute, in air densities comparable to Mars, didn't burn up, and it did a decent job at slowing down. So, the $150 million test showed that mach 4, >100 foot parachutes, in air densities comparable to Mars could work.

Now, a mach 11 (about orbital velocity of Mars), >100 foot parachute, in air densities comparable to Mars would be useful for Mars missions, but that test would cost even more, so a cheaper test for mach 4 was done instead.

Re:NASA testing a 100 foot, mach 4 parachute (5, Informative)

shadowspawn1 (1750942) | about 2 months ago | (#47343561)

To correct the above comment:

1) Parachutes are normally ripped apart somewhere between Mach 2 and Mach 3. A Mach 11 parachute is current-technology crazy.

2) You are likely talking about the HIAD (hypersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator) work that Langley is doing. The idea there is to inflate the inflatable decelerator (that has flexible TPS) in orbit before entry. Langley has had good success with two or three Earth orbital reentry tests of the HIAD system. They are doing great work there.

3) The large ~100ft diameter parachute is not opened at Mach 4. It is opened somewhere around Mach 2. It is novel because it is larger than what any wind tunnel currently on Earth can test and it is an effort to flight qualify a new higher performance drag parachute for Mars use. The parachute is completely separate from the inflatable decelerator.

4) Your speed during entry depends on your entry trajectory which varies based on opportunity. Divide by the speed of sound and you have Mach #. There is nothing special about Mach 11 that ties it to the "orbital velocity".

5) Both the HIAD and SIAD systems are being developed and have their own advantages. Both are being developed to good effect.

Please forgive the numbered lists

Re:NASA testing a 100 foot, mach 4 parachute (1)

itzly (3699663) | about 2 months ago | (#47344151)

There is nothing special about Mach 11 that ties it to the "orbital velocity".

Except of course that there is a minimal velocity where orbit decays into atmospheric entry. I don't know the details for Mars, but that could very well be Mach 11.

Re:NASA testing a 100 foot, mach 4 parachute (1)

HybridST (894157) | about 2 months ago | (#47344275)

Wolfram puts mars escape velocity at about 5000m/s, just under half that of earth.

m.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=escape+velocity+Earth%2C+Mars

Re:NASA testing a 100 foot, mach 4 parachute (1)

itzly (3699663) | about 2 months ago | (#47344345)

Escape velocity is the vertical speed you need to get on the surface of the planet to guarantee escape from the planet (assuming no atmosphere). I'm talking about the orbital velocity (i.e. the horizontal speed the craft has in orbit around a planet). Assume the craft is in a low Mars orbit, and it wants to land on the planet, then it will hit the top of the atmosphere at a speed that's close to it's orbital speed, at least if you don't want to waste fuel by rocket braking.

The Details for Mars (2)

shadowspawn1 (1750942) | about 2 months ago | (#47345249)

@itzly - you said that you "didn't know the details for Mars":

The speed of sound at atmospheric interface is around 200m/s so take your favorite realistic entry velocity at Mars and divide it by 200m/s to get the entry Mach number. (Spoiler: It won't be Mach 11)

Reference: http://exrocketman.blogspot.co... [blogspot.com] (look at figure 7 column 'c' is for the speed of sound)

Let's say we're *really slow* and enter at 5 km/s as you mentioned above. That would mean 5000/200 = Mach 25. A more realistic *direct* entry velocity is in the neighborhood of 6-7 km/s.

Re:The Details for Mars (1)

shadowspawn1 (1750942) | about 2 months ago | (#47345259)

Sorry, you did *not* mention 5 km/s.

Re:Just WOW (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 months ago | (#47343589)

It didn't work right, did not fully deploy and it was considered a success?

What the summary does not make clear (but which you could have discovered yourself had you followed the second link) is that the part that failed to deploy was a "bonus" [nasa.gov] test - not the main goal. The main goal was to test the basic handling and flight characteristics of the test vehicle. Two additional tests are planned (and were planned long before today) to test the SIAD and the parachute.
 

Now I see why SpaceX could replace NASA and this is coming from a Sci geek.

Being a science geek doesn't make you an expert on well... anything, it just makes you a science geek. In this case, you haven't [censored] clue what you're talking about - and as proof I invite you to consider the results of SpaceX's first three launches [wikipedia.org] , as well as the preperations [wikipedia.org] for the first Dragon COTS demo, and the second flight's problems [wikipedia.org] as well as the ongoing problems with their current launch campaign [aviationweek.com] . You're just repeating cargo cult crap you've read elsewhere from similarly ignorant soi-disant "geeks". SpaceX has a lot going for them, but unlike you, they and NASA live in the real world. And in the real world, shit breaks. Especially (essentially) one-of-a-kind prototype hardware on it's first flight - like the LDSD.

Re:Just WOW (1)

publiclurker (952615) | about 2 months ago | (#47344759)

With such ignorant comments, I don't see how you can consider yourself a sci geek. Watching Aeon flux doesn't count.

$150M Can You Land Me Now? (0)

retroworks (652802) | about 2 months ago | (#47342829)

Actually I completely support this kind of NASA test, but I question why NASA would want their trial balloons in the Wasthington @#$ing Post.

Re: $150M Can You Land Me Now? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47343369)

I think it's great that we're planning to send a flying saucer *to* Mars. Not only that, we can send our microbes too.

revirginated? please raise your mouses (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47342855)

not sure what that is? http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=hymen+replacement no wonder the hymenless monkeys pity us? still not shooting each other,, still sharing their bananas... talk about advanced?

Dont think that word is what you mean... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47342877)

Please stop using the words "flying saucer", it spooks the civilians.
That's a heat shield, no different concept than on any of the old US spacecraft, just designed to aerobrake on Mars.

Re:Dont think that word is what you mean... (1)

RabidTimmy (1415817) | about 2 months ago | (#47343117)

Especially since a flying saucer should, you know, fly.

The headline is a bit deceptive.

Obama's NASA (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47342887)

It fails !

Bolden shouts, "Success !"

NASA is doomed.

Funny coincidence that... (1)

Smirker (695167) | about 2 months ago | (#47342911)

We're progressing to the stage where we'll be landing flying saucers on foreign planets. Disclaimer: I'm a complete sceptic.

Good luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47343135)

Splashing in Mars.

and I perfected the flying cow (falling != flying) (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 2 months ago | (#47343145)

This is a flying saucer as much as any cow is a flying cow. Falling is not flying.

Re:and I perfected the flying cow (falling != flyi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47343169)

"That's not flying! It's falling with style!"

Re:and I perfected the flying cow (falling != flyi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47343447)

Controlled falling is kind of flying. Though I don't think I'd count a parachute unless you did some fancy maneuvers

Re:and I perfected the flying cow (falling != flyi (1)

Poingggg (103097) | about 2 months ago | (#47344355)

This is a flying saucer as much as any cow is a flying cow. Falling is not flying.

Unless you manage to miss the ground.

Incorrect on Parachute (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47343173)

I read the parachute failed and they were confirming whether all ordinance fired or not for the recovery team. Saying the parachute was a success is wrong, but the craft works. I hope they work the bugs out.

MOOSE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47343349)

Machinery Out Of Space Easiest

To the people that think this was a waste of money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47343401)

Your president wants your permission to allow him to give more than 3 times what this experiment cost (500 x 10^6 dollars) to arm a bunch of people , the majority whom are the very enemies you were fighting for more than 10 years. I ask you: Where is your money really being wasted?

A little more info (5, Informative)

shadowspawn1 (1750942) | about 2 months ago | (#47343537)

To flush out this story:

1) This is the first of three tests. The next test is next summer; they designed the long lead time so that they could roll bug fixes uncovered in the first test into the system. The price tag covers all the tests and some additional work besides not just this one test.

2) The black box was dropped just in case they couldn't recover the hardware, it has a lot of data and high resolution imagery. For this test, they were able to recover all of the hardware as well.

3) The first test was really a shake out of the balloon deployment method that took the vehicle up to 120k feet, spun it up for stability, brought it to Mach 4 and despun the vehicle. This hadn't been tried before so the fact that it succeeded was fantastic.

4) The gravy part of this test was the inflation of the SIAD (supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator) and a new type of parachute with a higher drag coefficient than what we normally expect from a Viking heritage DGB (disk gap band). The SIAD inflated without a hitch the parachute looks to have tangled up. They'll have to investigate the hardware and find out what exactly happened.

5) They're doing something high risk and "crazy" to push forward the state of the art. Elements are expected to fail along the way but they're rolling fixes into the next test. Try checking out a compilation of rocket explosions that happened while we were learning how to build them.

=========

Why the hell does this matter?

With the current state of the art; we can land up to around 2 tons on Mars. With new technology like the SIAD (which can be opened far earlier than a parachute ever could be) we can get to landing ~10 tons on Mars. There is an even larger SIAD that would push this into the +20 ton range (especially if you include the new parachute as well). This is the start of the range where we can start talking about human missions to Mars.

Hope that helps.

The operation was a success.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47344141)

But we dropped the patient and they died. Think of it as a "learning experience".

Said the Martians (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47346147)

"I for one welcome our new Earth overlords and their fearsome flying saucers!"

Pics or it didn't happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47348221)

I freakin' hate stories where there are no images of the bloody thing.

No alien...just us visiting from the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47353123)

Maybe UFOs are really us from the future.

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