back to article NASA scrubs FLYING SAUCER over Hawaii ballocket mission

NASA has scrubbed the planned test flight of its rocket-powered flying saucer - the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) - due to unfavourable wind conditions. The LDSD was due to lift off between 3 and 13 June at the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on Kauai, Hawaii, to test technologies that may one day …


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  1. DropBear

    Murphy says...

    ...wind conditions will continue to stay unfavourable defying previous trends and records indefinitely as long as the LDSD remains stationed in Hawaii, no matter how long that turns out to be.

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: Murphy says...

      That's about the size of it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Murphy says...

      Corollary: Unfavorable winds will emerge anywhere the team stations itself: suddenly and chronically. Eventually, their supply of helium to perform the initial launch will disappear somewhere and the entire project will have to be scrapped because they won't be able to obtain any more (as world helium supplies are getting low).

      1. Anonymous Custard

        Re: Murphy says...

        And why is it that whenever I'm on a project that gets such delays and stop-overs, it's always in some godforsaken place with grotty weather and horrible hotels?

        Why is it never somewhere like Hawaii as these guys are having to endure? I'm sure that I could just about put up with a couple of weeks of doing nothing around there just waiting for the wind to blow...

  2. i like crisps

    From your photo.

    It seems that the saucer is being maintained by a brace of "Fishmongers'!

  3. Anonymous Custard

    If it's not a silly question..

    ...why not just use a ship to launch it? OK it's a largish bit of kit, but it's not that big.

    Then you can more or less pick your launch site, away from everything except the ship itself, which can of course move if required.

    That way also you've also got a craft on-station ready to recover the bits that come down again after the test (presuming they don't end up in a jetstream and go off looking for trees to come down in) and generally not add to the growing trash island a bit to the west.

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: If it's not a silly question..

      The problem would be the balloon, I reckon.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If it's not a silly question..

      Please read the altitudes involved carefully. The device is supposed to activate at 36,500m. No traditional aircraft that I know of is capable of staying flightworthy at over 100,000 feet. Which leaves rockets and balloons. Rockets are likely out because the device ITSELF uses a rocket and the logistics of a rocket handoff means there's no way to properly test the device's rocket using a rocket booster. That and it would probably be too rough on the craft. Which means balloons are your only option.

    3. Don Jefe

      Re: If it's not a silly question..

      You could launch it from a ship, but there's not really a lot of advantage over the weather with a ship. One of the most frustrating things in the world is 'racing' toward, or away, from something while onboard ship. Unless you're aiming for a landmass, whatever you were originally hoping to find in that spot has already left. It's like a bad parody of bullet-time.

      Furthermore, in the ever so unexciting world of toilet paper and tampons practicality, shipboard experiments are incredibly expensive and time consuming. Obviously, forgetting something onshore really sucks, and the chances for unexpected things to occur are greatly multiplied, so you end up doing dry run after dry run. You've got all the expense of the project team almost doing the experiment, and you've also got an entire ship and her crew held hostage. Most of the well equipped, reconfigurable, research vessels have fairly packed schedules so if something goes awry it can be disastrous, because that ship isn't going to be late for the next project.

      It's not impossible to do experiments onboard a ship, it's done all the time, but it's definitely one of those things where if it doesn't have to be done onboard it's better to do it elsewhere. That's why most naval tech is tested and fine tuned onshore for ages before trials at sea get started.

  4. Evil Auditor Silver badge


    "Kauai was selected because the team wanted to go to Hawaii and some research showed that this area sometimes might have the proper wind conditions [...]"

    Don't hit me, I'm just guessing :)

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Hawaii

      Wrong guess. Here is the right one:

      El nino year - all bets are off and any previous data on wind patters is invalid.

  5. southpacificpom


    Was it Obama's wind that grounded this?

  6. Cheesenough

    Re: Hawaii

    Many a truer word said in jest. I bet Middlesborough has equally favourable wind conditions, but somehow just doesn't hold the allure of Hawaii.

    1. southpacificpom

      Re: Hawaii

      I seem to remember quite a few similarities between the two on a sunny day up north.

      1. hamcheeseandonion

        Re: Hawaii

        Middlesborough twinned with Hawaii....plonk a sodding great active volcamo in Middlesborough, and you would never know the difference....honest guv'nor...would i lie to you?...(and me a distant relation to Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler too)

  7. Stephen 24

    Launch away from populate areas

    How do they ensure the rocket fires off in the right direction away from the populate areas? Is it doing more than a strato-dangle(tm)? Can you get a Mach-3 rocket to U-turn??

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Launch away from populate areas

      "Can you get a Mach-3 rocket to U-turn??"

      These days Nasa try not to put "U-Turn" mode into rockets that are intended to go straight up...The early tests of the system turned out to be quite messy.

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: Launch away from populate areas

      All but the smallest of rockets have a variety of systems to destroy a wayward rocket the moment things get wonky. Most have automatic termination systems that activate with no Human intervention required. Some have systems that switch over at a preset altitude and require Human intervention to stop. That type are designed to give ground crews as much data as possible for failure analysis without endangering anyone.

      Besides, the world is big, and most of it has zero people on it, so if you're starting from the middle of the ocean the chances of hitting a populated area are really, really slim.

  8. imanidiot Silver badge


    I hope El Reg wil keep us updated on launch plans as always?

  9. twillcomp

    Ballocket? Sounds familiar

    Is this something to do with Lohan? I can't see where the playmobil Pilot or Rescue diver sit.

    1. Peter Simpson 1

      Re: Ballocket? Sounds familiar

      Lester and the rest of SPB are on the payroll (and on site, of course) as technical consultants.

      // no surf baggies icon???

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