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ExoMars parachute failures could jeopardize 2020 launch date – Spaceflight Now

ExoMars paragraph deployment sequence to deliver a surface and rover platform to the surface of Mars. The graphics are immeasurable, and the colors of the parachutes are for illustrative purposes only. Credit: ESA

The European Space Agency has confirmed that a parachute for the ExoMars rover mission set for launch next July failed a test in Sweden earlier this month, the second parachute test accident of the project since May.

Failure during a high-altitude parachute test August 5 was a disservice to the ExoMars team as engineers worked toward a 19-day launch window that opens July 25, 2020. This is the second parachute failure of ExoMars engineers encountered in pre-launch testing, following a similar accident May 28.

Four parachutes – two pilot chutes and supersonic and subsonic primary chutes – will slow down ExoMars Land after it entered the Martian environment. The lander will cut down parachutes and fire braking rockets to slowly settle over Mars.

Engineers implemented changes to the critical parachute system following the May 28 accident, but a follow-up test also ran into trouble, the ESA said in a statement Monday. ESA and industrial teams conducted the same tests from the Esrange Space Center, operated by Swedish Space Corp. in far northern Sweden.

"Preliminary analysis shows that preliminary steps have been completed correctly, however canopy injuries were observed prior to inflation, similar to the previous test," the ESA said in the August 5 trial. " , the test module falls under the drag of the pilot chute alone. "

In the May 28 trial, engineers tested all four parachutes in the ExoMars landing system after crashing a test vehicle from a stratospheric balloon around 29 kilometers (95,000 feet) in height.

During a normal landing sequence, a pilot chute should pull and release a 15- meter (49-feet) supersonic main parachute, a larger version of the disc-gap parachute successfully transferred to the European Huygens probe during Saturn's Tune month. When the vehicle collapses below the speed limit nog, a second pilot chute will take a 35-meter (114-foot) subsonic main parachute, which is the widest fly on Mars and uses a different "ring-slot" design intended to create more drag .

In a statement Monday, the ESA stated that the "general order" was completed at the May 28 trial, and that all expansion mechanisms were working as intended. Both major parachute canopies suffered tears in their fabric, but the chutes produced a "good level of expected aerodynamic drag," ESA said.

After making changes to the parachutes and their bags, the ground floor continued with a second high-altitude test Aug. 5, focusing only on the larger, subsonic main parachute, the ESA said. This test has also produced an unpleasant result.

"Sadly, the precautionary designs that were introduced following the anomalies of the final test did not help us pass the test successfully, but as always we remain focused and working to understand and correct the flaw to launch next year, "said Francois Spoto, head of ESA's ExoMars team.

The built-in European ExoMars rover (foreground) and the Russian-built stationary lander (background) are set to launch in July 2020. Credit: ESA / ATG medialab

ESA says engineers got everything of hardware from testing on August 5 for tests. The teams are also reviewing video and telemetry from the trial to determine what went wrong.

Two more high-altitude parachute tests, one for each major parachute, are planned later this year and early 2020. Those tests should produce good results – and stay close to their current schedules – whether ExoMars land will remain on track to launch in July or August 2020, officials said.

High-altitude parachutes are expensive and require advance planning. ESA said the ExoMars team is looking at the possibility of creating additional parachute test models and performing ground-based simulations to "mimic the dynamic nature of parachute capture."

The ESA also looks at NASA's expertise in Mars parachute design. [19659003] The larger of the two major ExoMars mission parachutes worked as designed during a low-level drop test in Sweden last year.

The 35-meter parachute for the ExoMars mission was made by Italian company Arescosmo. British engineering form Vorticity Ltd. is conducting a campaign test in Sweden under the supervision of the French division of Thales Alenia Space, with general responsibility for the ExoMars parachute system.

"Going to Mars and landing on Mars in particular is very difficult.," Spoto said in a statement. "We are committed to flying a system that can safely deliver our payload to Mars to carry out this unique mission in science."

If ExoMars and rover land miss the launch window next year, the next opportunity to leave Earth on a direct flight to Mars will be in late 2022. The launch planes of the launch Mars is open once every 26 months, when Earth and Mars are located in the right position in the solar system to make a direct journey possible.

The ambitious program of ExoMars was a collaboration between ESA and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. The ExoMars program consists of two parts.

The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter was launched in March 2016 and is now exploring the Martian environment with a suite of scientific instruments to search for methane, and a camera to map changes to the surface of planet. The Trace Gas Orbiter launches aboard a Russian Proton rocket in conjunction with a landing craft named Schiaparelli, which collapsed on the Red Planet in the final descent.

Like its orbiter precursor, the second ExoMars mission will be launched with a Russian Proton booster from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. A module created by European carriers will guard the ExoMars path from Earth to Mars, where a phase of Russian development will deliver the European ExoMars rooster to the surface.

The Russian functional phase will remain operational as a stationary lander platform – named Kazachok, Russian for the "little Cossack" – to conduct its own scientific measurements, while the European rover will drive a few kilometers and drill a depth of 2 meters (6.6 feet) to collect key samples for testing on the mobile robot laboratory on-board.

Scientists have not studied material from the extreme depths below the Martian surface, where biomarkers and organic molecules can survive the life-forms that may have lived on the planet when it was warmer and wet billions of years ago. , named Rosalind Franklin, is under construction at an Airbus Defense and Space facility in Stevenage, England. Credit: Airbus Defense and Space

Italy is the largest financial backer in the ExoMars program, with Italy's Thai division managing all industrial activities in Europe. Britain is ExoMars' second largest financial supporter, and the Airbus Defense and Space factory in Stevenage north of London will be charged with developing its own rover vehicle.

The ExoMars rover was named for Rosalind Franklin, a British chemist and X-ray crystallographer whose work contributed to the discovery of a twisting double helix shaped DNA molecule. The Rosalind Franklin vehicle, now under final assembly at Stevenage, is the first European Mars rover.

The Rosalind Franklin rover and the Kazachok lander were supposed to launch in 2018, but officials have programmed a mission for 2020 after both vehicles have run out of development The delay.

Jorge Vago, scientist on the ESA's ExoMars project, said on July 26 that the Airbus teams at Stevenage had the basic structure of the Rosalind Franklin rover with the Analytical Laboratory Drawer, an instrument box holding the equipment to deliver rock and soil for example to the three scientific instruments contained in the container.

The connection of the rover structure with the instrument housing is a major focus of the rover assembly, Vago said. The rover drill has also been installed, and the robot and six-wheel suspension system will be added later. 26 presentations to NASA's Mars Exploration Program Research Group. "Everything else is mounted." the landing platform came to a Thales Alenia Space facility in Turin, Italy, from the NPO Lavochkin factory in Russia. More components of the falling module, such as aerodynamic shield and lander solar panels, arrived in Italy from Russia in June.

Russia's built-in landing platform for the ExoMars mission was named Kazachok, Russian for the "little Cossack." Credit: Roscosmos

The ExoMars cruise phase, which will take landers and rovers to Mars, arrived at the Turin site of Thales Alenia Space in April from its OHB System manufacturer in Germany.

When complete, the Rosalind Franklin rover will arrive from the United Kingdom at an Airbus facility in Toulouse, France, for environmental testing, according to the ESA.

Email the author. on Twitter: @ StephenClark1 .

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