NASA's LDSD project, which underwent a mostly successful test last year, has been indicated to improve the maximum payload deliverable to the surface of Mars from 1.5 metric tonnes to 2-3 metric tonnes (Source).

It will be undergoing another test shortly this year, in a larger 8m diameter variant.

LDSD sample image

Are there any actual plans to use the technology developed by this project on operational missions, however? Mars Science Laboratory looks set to retain the title of largest payload delivered to the surface of Mars at 899kg for the time being, at least until the Mars 2020 rover, which may have a mass of 950kg.

However, Mars 2020 is based off the MSL architecture itself, and would not need the LDSD outright. At the other end of the timescale, manned Mars missions in the 2030's will require many-ton payloads to be delivered direct to the surface. DRM5.0 calls for 30-50 tons, and Elon Musk has stated the design goal of the Mars Colonial Transporter is to deliver "100 useful tons of payload" to Mars surface.

The huge sizes of these payloads implies propulsive/powered landings near exclusively (although DRM5.0 does allow for an aerodynamic landing component), which would seemingly shut out LDSD from future missions.

However, in the interim, there may be a need for small multi-ton (1-5t) payloads to be landed, this might include a sample return or a supply depot for a future manned mission. My question is, does the use of LDSD appear in any current mission design, in any form, to Mars?

To be totally clear, I'm not questioning LDSD' scientific value or usefulness, I actually think it's an incredibly interesting project and could provide many engineering advancements, well beyond use at Mars - I just want to know if any missions have called upon its immediate use.

  • $\begingroup$ i imagine they have to establish it works before they can put it in any plans. But i also imagine they have clear ideas of what they can use it for, it just can't be made official until they know it works. $\endgroup$
    – kim holder
    Mar 30, 2015 at 2:25
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    $\begingroup$ "NASA's LSDS project,.." The words make an abbreviations of LDSD.. You're not confusing this with those psychedelic experiments conducted by the psychology department at Uni. are you? ;) $\endgroup$ Mar 30, 2015 at 5:11
  • $\begingroup$ @AndrewThompson ha, you got me. ;) I honestly don't know why I got the acronym messed up. Apologies. $\endgroup$ Mar 30, 2015 at 8:23
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    $\begingroup$ The flight this year is with 6-m SIAD. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Adler
    Mar 30, 2015 at 23:33
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    $\begingroup$ We are planning to do rocket sled runs with the 8-m SIAD next month (April). $\endgroup$
    – Mark Adler
    Mar 31, 2015 at 0:07

1 Answer 1


Are there any actual plans to use the technology developed by this project on operational missions?

No, not that I'm aware of. And I would not expect there to be any before the technology has been proven. If you are trying to sell a mission concept or keep a mission concept on the table, you would be well advised to not have it be critically dependent on a pending technology development that may or may not succeed. The LDSD technologies are of the sort that, if you are using them, you are critically dependent on them for mission success.

  • $\begingroup$ What do you personally consider the TRL of LDSD as a whole to be? $\endgroup$ Mar 30, 2015 at 23:42
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    $\begingroup$ Only individual technologies can have a TRL, and LDSD has three. It would not make sense to try to merge TRLs somehow. The 6-m SIAD is at TRL-6 (which is as far as LDSD will take it), the 30-m parachute is at TRL-5, and the 8-m SIAD is at TRL-4. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Adler
    Mar 31, 2015 at 0:10
  • $\begingroup$ Alright. Thanks for your answer and replies. Good luck with the tests this year, LDSD is my favorite small NASA project tied with Morpheus! $\endgroup$ Mar 31, 2015 at 0:19

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