NASA released a video on August 7, 2014 showing the test flight of a flying saucer. The object on this video is not an extraterrestrial spacecraft, but rather NASA's own technology.
On April 9, 2014, NASA warned that a flying saucer would be seen in Hawaii during the summer of 2014. This saucer belongs to NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project, a project designing and testing new technology to land large payloads on the surface of planetary bodies with atmospheres, like Mars.
As NASA describes, “The LDSD is one of several crosscutting technologies NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate is developing to create the new knowledge and capabilities necessary to enable our future missions to an asteroid, Mars and beyond.” New Scientist explains that NASA’s inflatable technology is intended to help slow down space vehicles after entering the thin Martian atmosphere at supersonic speeds.
A test-flight of the rocket-powered, saucer-shaped spacecraft was temporarily delayed, but eventually launched into near-space from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii in late June. NASA explains, “Hitching a ride aboard the 7,000-pound saucer were several high-definition video cameras. The arresting imagery is providing the engineers and scientists on the LDSD project with never before seen insights into the dynamics involved with flying such a vehicle at high altitudes and Mach numbers.”
The flying saucer flight video released by NASA features play-by-play commentary by Ian Clark, principal investigator for LDSD at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Seen in the video are two cutting-edge technologies: The Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD)—a large, doughnut-shaped air brake deployed in-flight to reduce the craft’s speed, and the Supersonic Disksail Parachute—the largest supersonic parachute ever flown.
Clark comments, “We hope the video will show everyone how beautiful and awesome the test was, and to just to give folks an insight into what experimental flight test is all about.”
Two more test flights will take place, beginning in June 2015. For more information about the LDSD mission, NASA has a web page that gets into the specifics of the project.