A manufacturing facility in San Diego had a big role in NASA‘s test Saturday of a so-called “Martian saucer,” officially known as the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator, for landing heavy, advanced payloads on Mars.
ATK‘s facility in Miramar built the Core Structure Assembly that served as the platform for two new technologies from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory: a surrounding Kevlar tube called the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator, and a mammoth parachute dubbed the Supersonic Disk Sail Parachute.
During Saturday’s test at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii, a balloon carried the test vehicle to an altitude of 120,000 feet. Then an ATK-built rocket motor ignited to accelerate the vehicle to more than three times the speed of sound and an altitude of over 180,000 feet.
The flight test simulated the low pressure and punishing speeds experienced by payloads dropped into the Mars atmosphere.
“ATK has long supported JPL and its missions to Mars,” said Cary Ralston, vice president and general manager of ATK’s Missile Products division. “ATK was an integral part of the team for Mars Pathfinder and Mars Exploration Rover, providing propulsion for the Delta II launch vehicle, and retro rockets and gas generators for the entry, descent and landing system used to safely deliver the rovers to the surface of Mars.”
The core assembly made at ATK’s Space Components division incorporates features required to handle the massive loads associated with deployment of the drag devices, which would slow down a vehicle in the red planet’s thin atmosphere. Among other applications, this new drag technology would enable delivery of the supplies and materials needed for long-duration missions to Mars.
While the NASA team expects to learn a great deal from this test, two more saucer-shaped vehicles are to be tested in 2015.
ATK is an aerospace, defense and commercial products company with operations in 22 states, Puerto Rico and internationally.
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