Supersonic NASA parachute torn to pieces in latest test

This NASA artist's concept shows the test vehicle for the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), designed to test landing te
This NASA artist's concept shows the test vehicle for the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), designed to test landing technologies for future Mars missions

NASA scientists working toward putting people on Mars said Tuesday a supersonic parachute they are developing to slow a vehicle's approach to the Red Planet partially deployed in a test, but immediately ripped apart.

The 100-foot-wide (30-meter) chute was sent into Earth's upper atmosphere aboard a sort of "flying saucer" test vehicle that was hoisted to the heavens via a lifting off from Hawaii on Monday.

It was the second such test of the enormous parachute, the largest supersonic chute ever deployed, which is being designed to slow the three-ton test craft as it travels at more than twice the speed of sound.

During the first experiment a year ago, the parachute was torn to shreds as it opened, destroyed by the massive drag generated by super-fast air speeds.

NASA engineers said Tuesday that the parachute in the latest test had fared little better, and ripped apart as it became fully unfurled.

"Preliminary analysis of imagery and other data received during the test indicates the Supersonic Ringsail parachute deployed," NASA said in a statement.

"The chute began to generate large amounts of drag and a tear appeared in the canopy at about the time it was fully inflated."

The test involved sending the flying saucer, an inner-tube shaped decelerator and the parachute to an altitude of 120,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean with the help of the giant balloon.

The saucer is called the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD). Rockets lifted the vehicle even higher, to 180,000 feet, pushing it to .

Ian Clark, the project's principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California said the latest test was at least partially successful.

NASA: Mars test parachute failed soon after inflating
In this Monday, June 8, 2015, photo, released by the U.S. Navy, sailors assigned to the Explosive Ordnance Detachment of Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1 recover the test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) off the coast of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. The parachute inflated during the test of new technology for landing larger spacecraft on Mars, but it then disintegrated immediately afterward, NASA officials said Tuesday, June 9. (Chief Mass Communication Specialist John M. Hageman/U.S. Navy via AP)

"The physics involved with LDSD is so cutting-edge we learn something profound every time we ," Clark said.

"Going into this year's flight, I wanted to see that the parachute opened further than it did last year before it began to rupture.

"The limited data set we have at present indicates we may not only have gone well down the road to full inflation, but we may have achieved it."

NASA: Mars test parachute failed soon after inflating
In this Monday, June 8, 2015, photo provided by the U.S. Navy, sailors assigned to Mobile Diving Salvage Unit 1 Explosive Ordnance Detachment recover the test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) off the coast of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. The parachute inflated during the test of new technology for landing larger spacecraft on Mars, but it then disintegrated immediately afterward, NASA officials said Tuesday, June 9. (Chief Mass Communication Specialist John M. Hageman/U.S. Navy via AP)

The new technology is tested at a high altitude because conditions there are similar to the of Mars.

Since the atmosphere on Mars is so thin, any that helps a heavy, fast-moving spacecraft touchdown needs to be especially strong.


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Jun 09, 2015
Must be discouraging for the design crew. But now they now what doesn't work and where to fix it, so it is an important step ahead.

Jun 10, 2015
Couldn't this be modelled in a supercomputer first, or is the turbulence and unfurling characteristics too chaotic to compute.

Jun 10, 2015
Couldn't this be modelled in a supercomputer first

I'd be surprised if they didn't do this. However, when you go to very small scales (time/spatial) then things get iffy in simulations. And from the description it might be that it ripped in that first 'snap' when it opened (which is a motion in the fabric like a whip being cracked). The forces at that point are extreme.

Jun 10, 2015
Strike two..
Hope NASA take the hint about single 100ft parachutes in a supersonic airflow now,

The potential for instability in such an energetic airflow must be huge.

Jun 10, 2015
Couldn't this be modelled in a supercomputer first

Just an additional though on this. Simulations usually focus on one aspect. E.g. flow simulations don't usually focus on the heat aspects. So while the parachute may be resistant to the forces inthe simulation the friction heat may cause changes in the fabric that weakens it

At high temperatures you may even get ionization effects that induce currents - which in turn can make resistive fibers melt. Similar what happened on space shuttle mission STS-75
http://www-spof.g...her.html


KBK
Jun 10, 2015
Transient peak forces, in a system that approaches chaos. Statistically predictable, but not absolutely predictable. Much like quantum function. Statistical, not absolute.

The freak wave, or monster wave analogy applies. The conditions at hand assure the eventuality that the freak/monster wave will appear.

I could probably suggest a fix or suggest they take another path ('abandon all hope, ye who etc') , if I knew the fine details of the construction, and had a good explanation from the people involved.

KBK
Jun 10, 2015
Couldn't this be modelled in a supercomputer first

Just an additional though on this. Simulations usually focus on one aspect. E.g. flow simulations don't usually focus on the heat aspects. So while the parachute may be resistant to the forces inthe simulation the friction heat may cause changes in the fabric that weakens it

At high temperatures you may even get ionization effects that induce currents - which in turn can make resistive fibers melt. Similar what happened on space shuttle mission STS-75
http://www-spof.g...her.html



Now we're getting somewhere. Focus on the transient and multiplied stressors. Amelioration of the peaks would probably be enough to do the job. Finding a method of enacting that, in a way that does not impede basic function, is the tricky part. I do indeed know of and use some tried and true techniques, in the areas I work in. A long complex story, and it involves trade secrets/lore.

Jun 10, 2015
Both parachute failure and rocket landing on pad failure. Amazing feats. If you don't succeed the first time you try, and try again until you do succeed. Pure determination.

Jun 14, 2015
Couldn't this be modelled in a supercomputer first, or is the turbulence and unfurling characteristics too chaotic to compute.


Contrary to popular belief, simulations are not always accurate predictors. Until you know the physics of the event pretty thoroughly a simulation is still a best guess. But once they have a successful drop then the simulations should improve.
:-0)

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