Technically speaking, NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator has a single 17,500-pound-thrust, solid-fueled rocket engine — and figuratively speaking, the saucer-shaped test vehicle is cooling its jets at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, waiting for favorable winds.
NASA spokesman David Steitz told NBC News the winds are a no-go for a Saturday launch attempt, and that means Monday is the next opportunity to loft the 15-foot-wide saucer up to 120,000 feet at the end of a helium balloon. Once that happens, the LDSD can light its engine, rocket up to 180,000 feet and open up its inflatable, doughnut-shaped drag shield to slow its supersonic descent to the Pacific Ocean.
The point of the uncrewed flight isn't to spark a wave of UFO sightings, but to test technologies that could be used to land bigger payloads on Mars. Check out this report to learn more about the LDSD, check in with the project's Web page to find out if Monday is a go, and keep an eye on NASA-TV's video coverage when the test takes place.
First published June 6 2014, 1:42 PM
Alan Boyle is the science editor for NBC News Digital. He joined MSNBC.com at its inception in July 1996, and took on the science role in July 1997 with the landing of NASA's Mars Pathfinder probe. Boyle is responsible for coverage of science and space for NBCNews.com.
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Boyle joined NBCNews.com from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, where he was the foreign desk editor from 1987 to 1996. Boyle has won awards for science journalism from numerous organizations, including the National Academies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Association of Science Writers. Boyle is the author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference." He lives in Bellevue, Wash.