NASA Sets Payload Record as Part of Parachute Development Test

Apr 16, 2010
NASA Sets Payload Record as Part of Parachute Development Test
NASA drogue parachute drop test at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground. Image credit: U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground

(PhysOrg.com) -- Under a brilliant early morning Arizona sky, NASA conducted a successful, record-breaking test of a drogue parachute being designed to return next-generation space vehicles safely to Earth.

The 77,000-pound payload used in the test was dropped from the back of a U.S. Air Force C-17 at an altitude of 25,000 feet, setting a record for the heaviest single load ever extracted out of a C-17 during flight. NASA conducted the drop test, April 14, at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground near Yuma, Ariz.

The design load limit test will provide engineers with a better understanding of the full structural capabilities of the drogue , currently under development for the Ares launch vehicles. The 68-foot-diameter drogue and all test hardware functioned properly and landed safely.

"Testing of a deceleration system is a very complicated process," said Ron King, Ares I first stage deceleration subsystem manager for the Ares Projects at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "All elements must work together in a carefully timed sequence to ensure a successful test. Through continued development and fine-tuning of the recovery system, our team is establishing a solid foundation for safe, reliable payload recovery."

The test team is managed by the Marshall Center and included engineers with ATK Space Systems near Promontory, Utah, the prime contractor for the first stage booster and United Space Alliance -- ATK's subcontractor, responsible for design, development and testing of the parachutes at its facilities at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

This was the second in a series of three planned load limit tests designed to place the loads expected in flight on the parachute canopy. The next test series, called overload tests, will subject the parachute canopy to loads greater than what would typically be experienced in flight, to prove the parachute is strong enough to survive some degree of unexpected events.

A load limit test, as the name implies, pushes the parachute’s canopy to its designed limit -- supporting a 450,000-pound opening dynamic load, or force in pounds exerted on the parachute generated by the drag and pull of the parachute when it opens. The primary test objective was to deploy or open the parachute at a dynamic pressure of 420 pounds per square foot, simulating the opening load conditions the will experience when it is deployed to slow the rapid descent of the rocket's spent first-stage motor.

The complete motor recovery system consists of the pilot parachute, drogue parachute and three main parachutes. Similar to those used for the space shuttle boosters, these parachutes have been redesigned to accommodate larger, more powerful motors that will travel faster and fall from a higher altitude than the shuttle boosters.

The drogue parachute is the workhorse of the parachute recovery system, providing the initial deceleration and taking the brunt of impact as it slows the rapid descent of the rocket's spent first-stage motor.

As the test series progresses, engineers perform three classifications of testing: development, design load and overload. Each level of testing is intended to test the performance of the new parachute design with payloads of different size and weight, under varying conditions.

The U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground provides the test range, support facilities and equipment to NASA for parachute testing. The U.S. Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., provided the C-17 test aircraft and crew.

Explore further: Is space tourism safe or do civilians risk health effects?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA Successfully Tests Parachute for Ares Rocket

Mar 02, 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 Tests Load Limits for Ares I Rocket Main Parachute

Oct 09, 2009

(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 ...

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 ...

Ares Super-chute

Mar 16, 2009

NASA and U.S. Air Force test pilots have just dropped a 50,000-pound "dummy" rocket booster on the Arizona desert--and stopped it before it crashed. It's all part of NASA's plan to return to the Moon.

Recommended for you

An unmanned rocket exploded. So what?

4 hours ago

Sputnik was launched more than 50 years ago. Since then we have seen missions launched to Mercury, Mars and to all the planets within the solar system. We have sent a dozen men to the moon and many more to ...

NASA image: Sunrise from the International Space Station

5 hours ago

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman posted this image of a sunrise, captured from the International Space Station, to social media on Oct. 29, 2014. Wiseman wrote, "Not every day is easy. Yesterday was a tough one. ...

Copernicus operations secured until 2021

6 hours ago

In a landmark agreement for Europe's Copernicus programme, the European Commission and ESA have signed an Agreement of over €3 billion to manage and implement the Copernicus 'space component' between 2014 ...

User comments : 0

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.