NASA recently performed a trial run on a rocket sled test fixture, powered by rockets, to replicate the forces a supersonic spacecraft would experience prior to landing. The sled tests will allow the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator Project, or LDSD, to test inflatable and parachute decelerators to slow spacecraft prior to landing and allow NASA to increase landed payload masses, improve landing accuracy and increase the altitude of safe landing-sites. These new devices represent the first steps on the technology pathway to land humans, habitats and return rockets safely on Mars or other destinations.
This test series is led by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and conducted at the U.S. Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake, Calif. LDSD is one of nine missions managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center's Technology Demonstration Missions Program for NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist in Washington.