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ExoMars Parachute Progress

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ExoMars Parachute Progress

ExoMars 2020 parachute deployment sequence

ExoMars Parachute Progress

October 16, 2019

Last month, positive steps were taken to address the issues discovered with the ExoMars mission parachute to maintain the launch window from July to August 2020.

The mission needs two parachutes – each with its own pull pilot – to help slow the descent module before landing on Mars. As atmospheric resistance decreases the speed of the descent module from about 21,000 km / h to 1700 km / h, the first parachute will be triggered. About 20 seconds later, at about 400 km / h, the second parachute will open. After the parachute has been separated, about 1 km above the ground, the braking engines are activated to safely release a landing platform – with an encapsulated spacecraft inside – on the surface of Mars for its scientific mission. The entire sequence, from atmospheric inlet to landing, takes just six minutes.

ExoMars progress update

While the unfolding sequence of all four parachutes was successfully tested in high altitude fall tests earlier this year, damage was observed in the 15 m diameter primary parachute and the 35 m diameter secondary canopy. Although precautionary adaptations were introduced for a second 35 m parachute test, canopy damage occurred again.

Since then, a complete inspection of all recovered equipment has been completed, allowing the team to define specific design adaptations to the primary and secondary main parachutes. Some promising design changes will also be applied to the parachute backpacks to ease the lines and exit of the back cover, preventing friction damage.

ESA has also requested NASA support to benefit from its hands-on parachute experience. This cooperation gives access to special testing equipment at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which will allow ESA to perform a number of dynamic ground extraction tests to validate any project design adaptations prior to the next altitude drop tests.

The next opportunities for high altitude drop testing will be in Oregon, USA, from January to March. ESA is working to complete the 15 and 35 m parachute tests prior to the ExoMars 'qualification acceptance review' planned for late April to meet the mission launch window (July 26 on August 11, 2020).

Qualified parachute assembly within your flight box should ideally be integrated with the spacecraft prior to boarding for Baikonur in April, but it can also be done during spacecraft preparation activities at the launch site in May.

The mission will be launched on a Proton rocket and a carrier module will take the composite descent module, the Kazachok landing platform and the Rosalind Franklin rover to Mars, arriving in March 2021. After leaving the surface platform, the Rosalind Franklin rover will explore the surface of Mars, looking for geologically interesting places to drill below the surface, to determine if life ever existed on our neighboring planet.

The rover is currently on an environmental testing campaign at Airbus Toulouse, France. At the same time, the flight conveyor module, which contains the descent module and landing platform, is completing its final testing round at Thales Alenia Space, Cannes, France. The spacecraft will be integrated into the spacecraft in early 2020.


ExoMars Parachute Progress

ExoMars rover

All parachute system qualification activities are directed and conducted by a joint team involving the ESA project (supported by the Technical Board specialization), TASinI (lead contractor), TASinF (PAS leader), Vorticity (project and parachute test analysis) and Arescosmo (manufacture of parachute and backpacks).

The ExoMars program is a joint venture between ESA and Roscosmos. In addition to the 2020 mission, it also includes the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) launched in 2016. TGO is already broadcasting important scientific results own and relay data from NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity and InSight Landing Module. It will also relay ExoMars 2020 mission data when it reaches Mars in March 2021.

For more information, please contact:
ESA Newsroom and Media Relations
Email: media@esa.int

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ExoMars Parachute Progress

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