NASA 'Flying Saucer' Launch Delayed by Rough Seas, Next Try Wednesday

NASA's second Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator is prepared for a June 2015 flight test at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. Launch is now set for June 8.
NASA's second Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator is prepared for a June 2015 flight test at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. Launch is now set for June 8. (Image credit: NASA)

An innovative saucer-shaped parachute that NASA scientists have dubbed their "flying saucer" will have to wait an extra 24 hours before launching on its latest test flight after rough ocean conditions delayed a planned launch today (June 2). 

NASA's "flying saucer" for Mars landings, officially known as the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator or LDSD, is an inflatable decelerator and parachute to test technologies that could one day allow spacecraft twice the size of the 1-ton Curiosity rover to reach the Martian surface. But NASA can only launch the LDSD prototype if weather and ocean conditions are right, and rough seas forced mission managers to delay the flight until Wednesday (June 3) at the earliest.  

"Mission managers postponed tomorrow's scheduled launch of a high-altitude balloon carrying NASA's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) test vehicle because of unfavorable ocean conditions," NASA mission officials wrote in a status update late Monday. "The wave height is not conducive for safe recovery operations." [More Photos from NASA's 2nd LDSD Flying Saucer Test]

NASA is now aiming to launch the LDSD test flight on Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. HST (1:30 p.m. EST, 1730 GMT) from the U.S. military's  Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. You can watch the NASA "flying saucer" launch on, courtesy of NASA, beginning at 1 p.m. EST (1700 GMT).  

This week's launch will mark NASA's second flight of the LDSD supersonic parachute to test new ways to deliver large spacecraft to Mars. On June 28, 2014, NASA launched the first LDSD test flight, which returning stunning video of its inflatable decelerator in space.

For the second LDSD test flight, a NASA balloon will carry the decelerator/parachute prototype up to an altitude of 120,000 feet (37,000 meters). Once there, it will be released and a rocket motor will kick in, launching the LDSD at supersonic speeds to a height of 180,000 feet (55,000 meters).

"Traveling at about three times the speed of sound, the vehicle's inner-tube-shaped decelerator, called a supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator, will inflate and slow the vehicle," NASA officials wrote in a mission description. "Then, at Mach 2.35, its parachute will inflate and gently carry the vehicle to the ocean's surface."

NASA engineers and scientists hope the data collected by the LDSD test flight will help deliver larger rovers and payloads to Mars during future missions. 

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.