NASA Space Technology Achievements in 2015

Credit: NASA
Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) checked off a number of key accomplishments in 2015. These advancements pushed the technological envelope, not only for use near Earth, but also to support future deep-space exploration missions.

“In 2015 we have made significant progress with several of our larger technology demonstration initiatives,” explains Steve Jurczyk, NASA associate administrator for STMD.

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NASA Year in Review

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2015, NASA explored the expanse of our solar system and beyond, and the complex processes of our home planet, while also advancing the technologies for our journey to Mars, and new aviation systems as the agency reached new milestones aboard the International Space Station.

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Video: NASA’s LDSD Paving the Way to Mars

Video Caption: NASA’s Ian Clark is the Principal Investigator for the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) Project; it’s basically an inflatable airbrake designed to help spacecraft descending through a planet’s atmosphere to slow from breakneck speeds to a safe landing speed. The technology behind LDSD will allow NASA to safely land spacecraft with larger payloads on the surface of Mars, more accurately and at elevations we’ve never before had access to.

How to View NASA’s LDSD Flight Live

Crews from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility prepare the balloon for flight for the 2014 NASA Low Density Supersonic Decelerator test from the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii (Credit: NASA/Bill Rodman)
Crews from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility prepare the balloon for flight for the 2014 NASA Low Density Supersonic Decelerator test from the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii (Credit: NASA/Bill Rodman)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Mission managers have postponed Tuesday’s scheduled launch of a high-altitude balloon carrying NASA’s Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) test vehicle because of unfavorable ocean conditions. The wave height is not conducive for safe recovery operations. The next launch attempt is Wednesday, June 3, no earlier than 1:30 p.m. EDT (7:30 a.m. HST).

NASA Television and JPL’s Ustream channel will carry live commentary on the launch beginning at 1 p.m. EDT (10 a.m. PDT/7 a.m. HST).

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Getting the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) Vehicle to Test Altitude

Crews from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility prepare the balloon for flight for the 2014 NASA Low Density Supersonic Decelerator test from the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii (Credit: NASA/Bill Rodman)
Crews from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility prepare the balloon for flight for the 2014 NASA Low Density Supersonic Decelerator test from the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii (Credit: NASA/Bill Rodman)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — In June NASA will conduct the second flight of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) test vehicle from the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) located on the Island of Kauai, Hawaii.

The test will begin at an altitude of about 120,000 feet. But what does it take to get a supersonic test vehicle to that altitude? It’s easier said than done.

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NASA’s LDSD Arrives in Hawaii in Advance of June Test

Divers retrieve the test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator off the coast of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. (Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Divers retrieve the test vehicle for NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator off the coast of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The second test vehicle for NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator project arrived April 25 at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.  The vehicle now will undergo final assembly and weeks of testing prior to its scheduled experimental flight set for early June. The flight will test two cutting-edge technologies for braking Mars spacecraft.

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JPL to Host Live Webcast for Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator

Divers retrieve the test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator off the coast of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. (Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Divers retrieve the test vehicle for NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator off the coast of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. (Credit:
NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project will be flying a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space from the Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii, in June.

The public is invited to tune in to an hour-long live, interactive video broadcast from the gallery above a clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where this near-space experimental test vehicle is being prepared for shipment to Hawaii. During the broadcast, the 15-foot-wide, 7,000-pound vehicle is expected to be undergoing a “spin-table” test. The event will be streamed live on www.ustream.tv/NASAJPL2 on March 31, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. PDT. JPL’s Gay Hill will host the program while LDSD team members will answer questions submitted to the Ustream chat box or via Twitter using the #AskNASA hashtag.

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NASA’s Busy, Successful Year in Space & On Earth

Orion splashed down safely in the Pacific after its first test flight. (Credit: NASA)
Orion splashed down safely in the Pacific after its first test flight. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2014, NASA took significant steps on the agency’s journey to Mars — testing cutting-edge technologies and making scientific discoveries while studying our changing Earth and the infinite universe as the agency made progress on the next generation of air travel.

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PopSci’s Best of What’s New: Dragon V2, LDSD & Chang’e-3

Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)
Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

Popular Science has published its year end  Best of What’s New list. In the aerospace category, the list included two NASA-funded programs and China’s first landing on the moon.

SpaceX Dragon Version 2 – Grand Award Winner

Elon Musk debuted a model of the human-rated Dragon spacecraft at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., in May. The vehicle, being developed under NASA’s Commercial Crew program, could carry astronauts to the International Space Station by the end of 2016.

Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator

Divers retrieve the test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator off the coast of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. (Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Divers retrieve the test vehicle for NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator off the coast of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. (Credit:
NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The LDSD project successfully flew a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space in late June from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The goal of this experimental flight test, the first of three planned for the project, was to determine if the balloon-launched, rocket-powered, saucer-shaped design could reach the altitudes and air speeds needed to test two new breakthrough technologies destined for future Mars missions.

For more information about the LDSD space technology demonstration mission: http://go.usa.gov/N5zm

Chang’e-3

The Chang'e-3 lander and Yutu rover on the moon.
The Chang’e-3 lander and Yutu rover on the moon.

China’s Chang’e-3 spacecraft soft landed on the lunar surface in December 2013 and then deployed the Yutu rover to further explore the moon. The moon landing was the first for China, and it marked the first exploration of the lunar surface in nearly 40 years. China is aiming to return soil samples from the moon with its Chang’e-5 spacecraft.

Decelerator Flight Test Postponed Due to High Winds

NASA workers at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, wearing clean room "bunny suits," prepare the LDSD test article for shipment later this month to Hawaii. LDSD will help land bigger space payloads on Mars or return them back to Earth. (Credit: NASA/JPL)
NASA workers at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, wearing clean room “bunny suits,” prepare the LDSD test article for shipment later this month to Hawaii. LDSD will help land bigger space payloads on Mars or return them back to Earth. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

NASA LDSD Program Update
Thursday, June 12

June 12, 2014 – 2:55 PM EDT

NASA did not conduct the flight test of the agency’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range in Kauai, Hawaii, during its designated launch period. The project’s reserved range time at the range will expire Saturday, June 14, with NASA unable to fly the test because of continuing unfavorable weather conditions.

Mark Adler, the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator project manager and Ian Clark, principal investigator on the project, both from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, participated in a media teleconference this morning and addressed questions on the project.

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