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Technology Demonstration Missions

Low Density Supersonic Decelerators (LDSD)

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Project Introduction

The Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator project will demonstrate the use of inflatable structures and advanced parachutes that operate at supersonic speeds to more efficiently slow down a spacecraft navigating through planetary atmosphere prior to landing. These new supersonic inflatable and parachute decelerators will increase landed payload masses. They also will allow for higher-altitude landings and access  to a larger portion of a planet's surface, and will enable improved targeting of safe landing sites. These new devices will be suitable for infusion into landed Mars missions, greatly extending performance capabilities. Flight testing is planned through 2015. Infusion customers include NASA's Science Mission Directorate and NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

LDSD: Key Mission Facts - To safely land heavier spacecraft on Mars, larger parachutes and other kinds of drag devices that can be deployed at supersonic speeds are needed. - High in Earth's stratosphere, NASA's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator mission will test new, full-scale parachutes and drag devices at supersonic speeds to refine them for future use at Mars. Testing will be conducted through 2015, with potential launch to Mars as early as 2018. - Current Mars landing techniques date back to NASA's Viking mission, which put two landers on Mars in 1976. That mission's parachute design has been in use ever since -- and was used again in 2012 to deliver the Curiosity rover to Mars. To conduct advanced exploration missions in the future, however, NASA must advance the technology to a new level of sophistication since Viking-style parachutes' capabilities are limited. - These new drag devices are one of the first steps on the technology path to landing humans, habitats and return rockets safely on Mars.

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