NASA GMAO supports successful test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID)


On November 10, 2022, NASA launched the Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) weather satellite aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Along for the ride was an experiment in slowing re-entry spacecraft, LOFTID (Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator). An expandible decelerator like LOFTID can provide an efficient method of slowing the descent of spacecraft in low density atmospheres, such as Mars. The LOFTID mission is a Technology Demonstration Mission managed by NASA’s Langley Research Center for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

Early in 2022, members of the LOFTID project team requested support from the GMAO to provide high altitude climatological information, as well as forecasts of winds, temperatures, and densities over the LOFTID splashdown area. Specifically, this support included:

  • MERRA-2 climatological profiles of winds (zonal, meridional, vertical), temperature, and density for the month of October and 1-15 of November based on the years 1980 through 2021. The location was at the center of the Pacific LOFTID splashdown region. The MERRA-2 model level pressures were interpolated to a 1 km vertical grid from 2 to 79 km. The climatology included means, standard deviations, and an estimate of diurnal variability at each altitude for each variable.
  • GEOS-FP forecast winds, temperature, and density error estimate vertical profiles for 24- and 48-hour forecasts for the LOFTID splashdown region. These were calculated from the forecast error seen during October and 1-15 November 2021 using the most current available GEOS-FP system. This data set included the 2021 means and standard deviations as well as the forecast error estimates.
  • The initial data set provided was for October. After the launch date slipped, data for the later period (1-15 November) were requested and rapidly provided.
  • The GMAO produces GEOS-FP forecasts twice daily at the NASA Center For Climate Simluation (NCCS) and the products are distributed through the NCCS data portal. To increase reliability in support of LOFTID, a redundant distribution site containing the specific products needed by the mission was set up on a GMAO server.
  • GMAO’s support team for this mission included Larry Coy, Tom King, and Rob Lucchesi.


GEOS-FP Horizontal Resolution Over the LOFTID Splashdown Area

LOFTID Grid Points

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