On Monday, NASA launched a flying saucer into the sky over Hawaii for testing its biggest parachute ever and a donut-shaped airbag. However, the test brought in bad news for the agency as the parachute failed to inflate.

After a significant delay, NASA managed to launch its much talked about Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator mission that might help in landing vehicles onto Mars’ surface. The launch took place from the island called Kauai. However, soon the space agency informed that the balloon installed above the saucer-like test vehicle didn’t inflate.

Announcing the news, NASA tweeted that it will now be concentrating on using the data collected during the test for learning and improving.

During this failed test, the balloon hauled up the vehicle up to a height of around 120,000 ft into the air, after which the vehicle was released. This was immediately followed by firing off a rocket at the bottom of the flying saucer, an event that accelerated the vehicle’s speed to as much as 4 times of that of sound. That’s not all; the vehicle reached a height of almost 180,000 ft above the Pacific Ocean.


The first one of the two tests planned by the agency began when the vehicle was 180,000 ft above the ocean. The saucer deployed the SIAD or Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator; for those who don’t know: the SIAD is a drag device that when inflated contains pressurized gas. According to Joshua Buck, a NASA spokesperson, a SIAD pops in the same manner as airbags found in cars; the only prominent different between the two is that unlike the airbags, the SIADs are donut-shaped.

After deploying the donut-like airbag, the vehicle tried to deploy its second and final test drive for this mission. This time it attempted to deploy a parachute boasting a diameter of 100 ft. Buck informed that the parachute tested during this mission is the biggest supersonic parachute the US space agency has ever tested.

The mission’s principal investigator Ian Clarke said that the parachute was inflating and moving at a speed that he and his team never thought would be possible. Soon suspension lines started to disintegrate, and things became messy.

The experts in charge of the mission noticed canopy asymmetry; some portions of the envelope were trying to pump up inside out. Also, holes were forming and propagating all over the parachute.

VIAWashington Post