In recently released footage from NASA, scientists show off one their latest innovations, the 'Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator,' on a test model 'flying saucer,' 180,000 feet above the Earth.
As part on NASA's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) program designed to test the technology needed to one day land massive payloads on Mars, scientists launched the test vehicle into the atmosphere using 34-million cubic foot scientific balloon. Once the vehicle arrived at 120,000 feet it then used its own rocket to increase its altitude an additional 60,000 feet.
After 'despinning' the vehicle, scientists were able to test out the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator; popping out like a donut around the ship and slowing it to two-and-a-half times the speed of sound.
According to narrator Ian Clark, the device then deployed a ballute to release a 200-pound parachute for its descent to Earth, although he does note that the parachute did incur some rips.
According to Clark, based upon the results of the flight, "We now have a data set we will use to prepare for two more tests in June of 2015."
Watch the video below courtesy of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory: