NASA Tests Load Limits for Ares I Rocket Main Parachute

October 9, 2009
NASA and industry engineers conducted a design limit load test of the Ares I rocket's main parachute Oct. 8 at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground near Yuma, Ariz. From the back of a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft, researchers dropped a 72,000-pound payload -- tying the record for the heaviest load ever extracted from the aircraft during flight -- from an altitude of 25,000 feet. The parachute and all test hardware functioned properly and landed safely. Image credit: U.S. Army Yuma Proving Grounds

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA and industry engineers conducted a design limit load test of the Ares I rocket's main parachute Oct. 8 at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground near Yuma, Ariz. The Ares I is the first rocket in NASA's Constellation Program which will launch explorers on journeys to the International Space Station, the moon and beyond.

Engineers from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., managed the team that conducted the - the first in a series of three planned load limit tests - designed to place 100 percent of the flight dynamic pressures on the canopy.

From the back of a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft, researchers dropped a 72,000-pound payload -- tying the record for the heaviest load ever extracted from the aircraft during flight -- from an altitude of 25,000 feet. The parachute and all test hardware functioned properly and landed safely.

"This was the ninth test for the Ares parachute recovery system, which is a tribute to the success of previous development testing," said James Burnum, first stage structural and mechanical team lead for the Ares Projects at the Marshall Center. “Thanks to the hard work of a dedicated team of professionals, we have taken the data collected from earlier tests, learned from it, and applied that knowledge to make sure our parachutes work right for the Ares I-X test flight and later the ."

As the name implies, the test is designed to push the parachute’s canopy to its limit -- supporting a 250,000-pound dynamic load. Dynamic load weight is generated by the drag and pull of the payload. The primary test objective was to achieve a dynamic pressure of 110 pounds per square foot on the canopy, simulating the conditions the main parachute will experience when it is deployed to slow the rapid descent of the rocket's spent first-stage motor.

The main parachute - measuring 150 feet in diameter and weighing 2,000 pounds -- is the largest rocket parachute ever built and the primary element of the rocket's deceleration and recovery system, which also includes a pilot parachute and drogue parachute. The parachutes work in tandem providing the drag necessary to slow the descent of the huge solid rocket motor. The parachute system allows the first stage to achieve a soft landing in the ocean where it will be recovered, evaluated and prepared for reuse on future missions.

As the test series progresses, engineers perform three classifications of testing: development, design load and overload. Each level of testing is designed to fully test the performance of the new parachute design with different size payloads under varying conditions. The next load test, scheduled for spring 2010, will test the deployment of the drogue and pilot parachutes during a single drop.

The Ares I recovery system uses parachutes similar to those used for the four-segment space shuttle boosters. The parachutes have been redesigned to accommodate the requirements of the Ares I first stage. The launch vehicle will have a five-segment solid rocket motor designed to fly faster and fall from a higher altitude than the shuttle boosters.

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

Provided by JPL/NASA (news : web)

Explore further: NASA Conducts Second Test of Main Parachute for Ares Rockets

Related Stories

Test in Development of NASA's New Crew Rocket is Successful

January 30, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The development of NASA's next-generation crew launch vehicle, the Ares I rocket, took another step forward Thursday as Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, successfully tested a critical piece. ATK conducted a full-scale ...

NASA Successfully Tests Parachute for Ares Rocket

March 2, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA and industry engineers successfully completed the second drop test of a drogue parachute for the Ares I rocket. The test took place Feb. 28 at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground near Yuma, Ariz.

NASA to Test World's Largest Rocket Parachutes for Ares I

May 18, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- With Memorial Day just around the corner, NASA plans a spectacular aerial display May 20 of the newly designed parachute recovery system for its Ares I rocket. The centerpieces for the test are the three ...

NASA Conducts First Ares I Rocket Cluster Parachute Test

May 20, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Unfurling in majestic patriotic colors, a successful cluster test of the Ares I rocket's three, 1-ton main parachutes was conducted May 20 by NASA and industry engineers at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground ...

Recommended for you

Dense star clusters shown to be binary black hole factories

July 29, 2015

The coalescence of two black holes—a very violent and exotic event—is one of the most sought-after observations of modern astronomy. But, as these mergers emit no light of any kind, finding such elusive events has been ...

Image: Hubble sees a dying star's final moments

July 31, 2015

A dying star's final moments are captured in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The death throes of this star may only last mere moments on a cosmological timescale, but this star's demise is still quite ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.