NASA mission managers are hopeful that the oft-interrupted launch of a flying saucer-shaped vehicle, which will help test landing technology for a future Mars expedition, will finally happen Saturday from a Navy range on Kauai.
Weather permitting, the so-called Low Density Supersonic Decelerator will be launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands sometime between 2:15 and 3 p.m. local time, according to NASA.
The vehicle will be carried up by a high-altitude balloon, which will take about two to three hours to reach "float" conditions. Once released, the vehicle will rocket high into the atmosphere and return using a giant parachute.
If successful, the parachute design could be used to slow landers and rovers descending through low-density Martian atmosphere. The more advanced landing technology is considered necessary to accommodate heavier spacecraft and, perhaps, astronauts.
High winds caused the vehicle to miss two previous launch windows, in June and earlier this month.
NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington is funding the mission, a cooperative effort led by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia is coordinating support with the Pacific Missile Range Facility and providing the balloon systems for Saturday’s test.
NASA will stream live video of the test via UStream at www.ustream.tv/nasajpl2.