Mission managers at the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) have postponed today's scheduled launch of a high-altitude balloon carrying NASA's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) test vehicle to Wednesday because of unfavourable ocean conditions.
''The wave height is not conducive for safe recovery operations. The next launch attempt is Wednesday, June 3, no earlier than 1:30 a.m. EDT (7:30 a.m. HST),'' a NASA release stated.
The low-density supersonic decelerator (LDSD), a flying saucer, is designed to check out landing technologies for future Mars missions.
The test launch window for LDSD is from 2 June to 12 June, and extends each day from approximately 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm EDT (10:30am to noon PDT / 7:30am to 9:00am HST) - over Hawaii.
If weather permits, the LDSD test vehicle will be carried aloft by a large weather balloon at 10 pm (Indian standard time) on Tuesday from the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.
For more than two hours, the balloon will carry the test vehicle to an altitude of 120,000 feet.
After reaching a height of 180,000 feet, a doughnut-shaped airbag will inflate around the saucer for its descent to earth.
The saucer is expected to splash down in the Pacific Ocean about two hours and 15 minutes after launch.
"The test is centered on how our newly-designed supersonic parachute will perform. We think we have a great design ready for the challenge, but the proof is in the pudding and the pudding will be made live for everyone to see," said Mark Adler, project manager for LDSD at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
In order to support a human mission to the Red Planet, NASA needs technologies capable of landing between 20 to 30 metric tonnes on the Martian surface.
The LDSD supports payloads of two to three tonnes, doubling the current capabilities.
During the test flight, viewers will see live, low-resolution images from high over the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Kauai, Hawaii.
Four cameras aboard the test vehicle will provide the LDSD mission team with different perspectives on the test.
The LDSD mission will test breakthrough technologies that will enable large payloads to be safely landed on the surface of Mars, and also will allow access to more of the planet's surface by enabling landings at higher-altitude sites
On launch day, NASA will give updates of the test-flight when commentary will resume with the drop and test flight of vehicle.
The LDSD test vehicle was shipped to the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) in Kauai, Hawaii, aboard a US Air Force C-17 cargo plane.
The LDSD mission is a cooperative effort led by JPL with funds from the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
The Technology Demonstration Mission programme at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages LDSD.
NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, is coordinating support with PMRF and provides the balloon systems for the LDSD test.