Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory conducted spin tests on the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) on 31 March, ahead of scheduled test flight.
The LDSD is a transportation vehicle made of various devices currently being tested to transport heavier payloads to Mars. Among the devices that will be tested are two pressure vessels called Supersonic Aerodynamic Decelerators, or SIADs, and a parachute capable of slowing down vehicle entry from supersonic to subsonic speeds.
The test was only the beginning in a series to be conducted on the LDSD to confirm its capability to transport heavy cargo.
"Well today we're going to do a spin test of our vehicle that is going to ship to Hawaii in a month or so. So this is testing the balancing of the vehicle," the electrical lead for LDSD, Steve Schroeder said.
The goal of the team is to create a vehicle that can transport heavier rovers to Mars and, in the future, carry supplies to astronauts stationed on the red planet. The vehicle must be able to safely decelerate from supersonic speeds to subsonic speeds in a low density environment, such as Mars' atmosphere.
"The program itself is demonstrating new technologies to allow us to land heavier objects on Mars. So we're testing brand new parachutes that are twice as large as what's been flown before and the Supersonic Aerodynamic Decelerator which is like a larger heat shield that goes around the heat shield that slows us down faster so we can land heavier objects on Mars," said Schroeder.
"Well, potentially, we could use the parachute right away on a near term mission to land a heavier rover on Mars and the supersonic decelerator portion is another technology to potentially land heavier payloads on Mars or at a higher altitude eventually paving the way to human exploration," he added.
While it is not clear when LDSD will make its first trip to Mars, deputy flight system engineer on the LDSD project Martin Greco says it is likely the technology used in this project will be implemented for future space travel.
A test flight will be conducted at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii on 2 June.