Feeds

Flying saucer with 'stadium-sized' orb to INVADE Earth's skies

Awaiting live NASA video of massive Bulgarian airbag

A new approach to endpoint data protection

Pic NASA's forthcoming flight of the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) – a flying saucer-esque test platform for technologies intended to one day safely deposit larger payloads on the surface of Mars – will be lifted by a helium-filled balloon so large you could "fit a professional football stadium inside it".

This agreeable description of the mighty orb comes from a NASA update on the LDSD, due to launch tomorrow, conditions permitting. The balloon's made up of a "thin envelope of polyethylene that is similar thickness to that of sandwich wrap". When "fully deployed", it's a tremendous 963,000 cubic metres, which, let's face it, is an awful lot of Bulgarian airbags.

In fact, according to our handy Reg online standards converter, we're looking at 1,671,991,110.5 Bulgarian airbags, or on a more manageable scale, 384.76 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Accordingly, we now know how many swimming pools there are to an official NASA professional football stadium, which is handy fact to have to hand during lulls in dinner party conversation.

The LDSD at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Pic: NASA/JPL

The LDSD flying saucer being prepped at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Pic: NASA/JPL

Once the professional football stadium sized balloon has lifted the LDSD to 36,500m, a rocket motor will blast the vehicle to 55,000m and Mach 4. If all goes to plan, a "balloon-like" pressure vessel – dubbed the "Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD) – will then inflate around the LDSD, "to slow the test article to a speed where it becomes safe to deploy a supersonic parachute".

The high-altitude nature of the test is intended to simulate conditions in Mars's thinner atmosphere, where the scientists one day hope to increase payload delivery "from our current capability of 1.5 metric tons to 2 to 3 metric tons".

The LDSD will lift off tomorrow from the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on Kauai, Hawaii, eventually coming down for an ocean recovery. NASA TV will be streaming the mission live from a tad before 1800 GMT.

If the launch is a no-go, there are further windows on 5, 7, 9, 11, and 14 June. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
Boffins spot weirder quantum capers as neutrons take the high road, spin takes the low
Cheshire cat effect see neutrons and their properties walk different paths
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?