NASA Conducts Second Test of Main Parachute for Ares Rockets

November 16, 2007
NASA Conducts Second Test of Ares Rockets' Main Parachute
Image Credit: NASA/MSFC

NASA and industry engineers successfully tested the main parachute for Constellation Program rockets during a drop test Thursday at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground near Yuma, Ariz.

The parachute system will allow Ares I and Ares V first stage boosters to be recovered and reused. Thursday's test validated the results of an earlier test conducted in September.

"Measuring 150-feet in diameter and weighing 2,000 pounds, this is the biggest chute of its kind that's been tested," said Steve Cook, director of the Ares Projects Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "With each milestone, we bring ourselves one step closer to further exploring the moon."

Exploring the moon and beyond is the focus of the Constellation Program, which is developing a new family of U.S. launch vehicles, spacecraft and related systems for exploration.

Booster recovery was the focus of the recent test, the second in a series. Outfitted with a 42,000-pound weight to simulate the load of a rocket's first stage, the main parachute was dropped from a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft flying at an altitude of 16,500 feet. The 1-ton parachute and all supporting hardware functioned properly, landing safely approximately three minutes later on the Yuma Proving Ground test range.

During the first main parachute test on Sept. 25, the parachute was dropped from a slightly higher elevation of 17,500 feet, giving NASA engineers the opportunity to monitor parachute performance at a dynamic pressure of 86 pounds per square foot. After the drop's completion, engineers spent several weeks reviewing test data - measuring the parachute's peak loads at opening, determining the canopy expansion rate during the early phase of inflation and measuring the parachute's drag area as it drifted down to Earth.

The Ares first stage booster recovery system is derived from the system NASA uses to recover the space shuttle's solid rocket boosters after launch. The first stage booster for Ares I is similar to the space shuttle's solid rocket booster but has an added fifth segment of propellant, resulting in a heavier load.

The current parachute tests are necessary to allow for differences between the space shuttle's four-segment boosters and the Ares launch vehicles. Testing is scheduled to run through 2010.

ATK Launch Systems near Promontory, Utah, is the prime contractor for the first stage booster. ATK's subcontractor, United Space Alliance of Houston, is responsible for the design, development and testing of the parachutes at its facilities at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

Source: NASA

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not rated yet Nov 16, 2007
I can't forgive NASA for retiring the Saturn V, they should have just kept improving it. All these other lifters are just BS... NASA complains about their budget, I think they owe us an explanation about why they retired a rocket that never killed any astronauts and would allow for more flexibility in the number of missions, duration, and destination to accomplish almost any effort. The smaller rockets are really just for probes that have very specific orbital trajectories and bombing each other... Can someone from NASA give us some answers about their most retarded decision ever? They better not say "cost" because those numbers are never going to add up if you subtract the number of total launches that would have been required since the 60's both foreign and domestic - plus the cost of developing and these new lifters that can't even come close to the payload capability of the Saturn V.
not rated yet Nov 17, 2007
The people to not forgive for the termination of the Saturn's were our then-lawmakers, aided and abetted by a White House that was by turns: crippled, hostile, indifferent, or cheeseparing.
They were all sure the shuttle would be faster, better, cheaper, and more reliable then the hugely expensive, with no perspective task they were suited to do, Saturn family of launchers. That was the advertised situation then, underscored by an absolute Congressional refusal to fund the boondoggle Lunar Program's continuation when money was desperately needed elsewhere (Vietnam and especially the Great Society costs were mushrooming).
So Congress cut the Saturn's to pay for and pave the way for the Shuttles which would be entering into service "real soon now". That was the logic then.
That all of it was hugely shortsighted or horribly, lethally wrong is clear now, in hindsight. However, the NASA seniors, Congressmen, Nixon, and Ford are mostly all dead now...or quite old.
Blaming the dead is silly, trying to learn from them is not. Trying to do better, but probably failing; well, that's being human.
not rated yet Nov 24, 2007
New Propulsion Technology paper being published.


Takes a totally new direction for the future.

It will surely rattle the conservative old school establishment.

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