See the Dramatic High-Altitude Drop Test for ExoMars Parachute – Performed Flawlessly at Supersonic Speeds
Science & Technology

See the Dramatic High-Altitude Drop Test for ExoMars Parachute – Performed Flawlessly at Supersonic Speeds

See the Dramatic High-Altitude Drop Test for ExoMars Parachute – Performed Flawlessly at Supersonic Speeds

After a number of weeks of unhealthy climate and powerful winds, the newest pair of high-altitude drop exams of the ExoMars parachutes happened in Kiruna, Sweden.  The 15 m-wide first stage essential parachute carried out flawlessly at supersonic speeds, whereas the 35 m-wide second stage parachute skilled one minor harm, however decelerated the mock-up of the touchdown platform as anticipated.

The ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars mission, with the Rosalind Franklin rover and Kazachok floor platform, is scheduled for launch in September 2022. After a nine-month interplanetary cruise, a descent module containing the rover and platform might be launched into the Martian ambiance at a pace of 21,000 km per hour.

ExoMars 2022 parachute deployment sequence. The ExoMars parachute deployment sequence that can ship a floor platform and rover to the floor of Mars in 2023 (following launch in 2022). The graphic is to not scale, and the colours of the parachutes are for illustrative functions solely.
The graphic highlights the essential occasions regarding the parachutes, a sequence that’s initiated after vital slowing of the 3.8 m-wide entry module in the ambiance with the aeroshell’s heatshields. Then the first pilot parachute is deployed, and shortly after the first essential stage parachute, which measures 15 m in diameter and has a disc-gap band design. It’s going to open whereas the module remains to be touring at supersonic pace and might be jettisoned previous to the deployment of the second pilot chute and second stage essential parachute as soon as at subsonic speeds. The second stage essential parachute has a ring-slot design and is 35 m in diameter, the largest to ever fly on Mars.
The second pilot chute stays connected to the essential parachute in an effort to forestall rebound of the deployed parachute. Throughout latter phases of the descent (not pictured) the aeroshell’s entrance heatshield might be discarded, and the touchdown platform might be launched for its closing descent and propulsive braking section. As soon as safely on the floor, it can subsequently deploy ramps for the rover to drive down and on to Mars.
Credit score: ESA

Slowing down requires a thermal protect, two essential parachutes – every with its personal pilot chute for extraction – and a retro rocket propulsion system triggered 20 seconds earlier than landing. The 15m-wide first stage essential parachute opens whereas the descent module remains to be touring at supersonic speeds, and the 35 m-wide second stage essential parachute is deployed at subsonic speeds.

Adjusting and testing the ExoMars parachutes has been a precedence following a collection of unsuccessful drop exams in 2019 and 2020. The crew improved the design by operating ground-based, quick turnaround dynamic extraction tests at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California final yr. And to mitigate dangers earlier than operating these high-altitude drop exams, ESA ordered backup parachutes from the US producer Airborne Programs, the very firm that delivered Perseverance’s parachute system. 

The newest drop exams happened on 24 and 25 June at the Swedish Area Company Esrange facility. Every excessive altitude drop take a look at noticed a dummy descent module lofted to an altitude of 29 km by a stratospheric balloon inflated with helium. Following launch, the pilot chute extraction is initiated with a managed extraction of the essential parachutes from their doughnut baggage. 

The primary take a look at centered on validating the Airborne Programs backup supersonic parachute – the first drop take a look at for this parachute on this ExoMars take a look at marketing campaign. The second take a look at was carried out the following night time utilizing the modified subsonic parachute and bag delivered by the Italian firm Arescosmo. Every take a look at was designed to use the full load anticipated throughout the Mars entry, descent, and touchdown, all with further security margins.

ExoMars parachute profitable restoration. Credit score: Vorticity

“We’re very pleased to report that the first essential parachute carried out completely: we now have a supersonic parachute design that may fly to Mars,” says Thierry Blancquaert, ExoMars program crew chief, noting that “there might be at least two additional alternatives to check this parachute design to realize additional confidence”.

“The efficiency of the second essential parachute was not excellent however a lot improved because of the changes made to the bag and cover. After a easy extraction from the bag, we skilled an surprising detachment of the pilot chute throughout closing inflation. This probably signifies that the essential parachute cover suffered additional strain in sure elements. This created a tear that was contained by a Kevlar reinforcement ring. Regardless of that, it fulfilled its anticipated deceleration and the descent module was recovered in good state.”

The crew might be wanting in additional element into the origin of this new anomaly earlier than finalizing the configuration of the subsequent pair of drop exams foreseen to happen in October/November 2021 from Oregon, USA. Earlier points because of the friction between cover and bag now appear to be resolved.

Any changes made to the parachute system will first be examined on the dynamic extraction take a look at rig at NASA/JPL to test how the launch of the bag happens, as it could occur in the martian ambiance. These exams may be repeated on a fast turnaround and cut back the danger of anomalies.

Restoration throughout the ExoMars parachute high-altitude drop exams in Kiruna. Credit score: Vorticity

Excessive-altitude drop exams require complicated logistics and strict climate circumstances, making them tough to schedule, and are sometimes aborted at the final second if the state of affairs modifications. The wind pace and path at varied altitudes needs to be thought of for a easy ascent of the balloon and the on-ground restoration of the {hardware} on condition that the drop zone can solely be accessed by way of helicopter. 

The system below take a look at is designed to ship some telemetry in actual time to a floor management centre to guage the deceleration profile. Nevertheless, the true consequence of the take a look at requires recovering the parachutes, baggage, exhausting disks and high-resolution cameras.

“We had been in the beginning blocks twenty-four hours a day, seven days per week, ready for an acceptable take a look at window to open for a month,” provides Thierry. “We’re relieved to have lastly carried out these exams and lengthen our because of all of the floor groups who labored so exhausting amid the added COVID-related constraints to hold out the exams, in addition to retrieve and examine the parachutes.”

The evaluation of the telemetry information will assist correlate the essential parachutes deployment and the inflation fashions. The crew will now work to know the second pilot chute detachment, and to suggest measures that may resolve this downside earlier than the subsequent high-altitude drop exams.

An ideal deployment for ExoMars. Credit score: Vorticity

All parachute system qualification actions are managed and carried out by a joint crew involving the ESA mission (supported by the Directorate of Know-how, Engineering and High quality), Thales Alenia Area Italy (ExoMars prime contractor, in Turin), Thales Alenia Area France (parachute system lead, in Cannes), Vorticity in the UK (Parachute design and take a look at evaluation, in Oxford) and Arescosmo in Italy (parachute and baggage manufacturing, in Aprilia). NASA/JPL-Caltech has offered engineering consultancy, entry to the dynamic extraction take a look at facility, and on-site help throughout these exams. The extraction exams are supported by means of an engineering help contract with Airborne Programs, who additionally offered NASA’s Mars 2020 parachutes, and by Free Flight Enterprises for the provision of parachute folding and packing amenities. Airborne Programs can be offering parachute design and manufacturing providers since 2021. 

Close to Area Company present the balloon launch providers in Oregon. The Swedish Area Company Esrange facility supplies the balloon launch providers in Kiruna.

The ExoMars mission will launch on a Proton-M rocket with a Breeze-M higher stage from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, in the 20 September – 1 October 2022 launch window. As soon as landed safely in the Oxia Planum area of Mars on 10 June 2023, the rover will drive off the floor platform, searching for out geologically attention-grabbing websites to drill under the floor, to find out if life ever existed on our neighbor planet. The ExoMars program, a joint endeavor between ESA and Roscosmos, additionally consists of the Hint Gasoline Orbiter, which has been orbiting Mars since 2016. In addition to its personal science mission, Hint Gasoline Orbiter will present important information relay providers for the floor mission; it’s already providing data relay support for NASA’s surface missions, together with the arrival of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover in February 2021.


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