The Mars 2020 rover undertaking is in full swing at NASA, and the company has chosen to base the brand new rover on the phenomenally profitable Curiosity design. That means the rover must decelerate within the Martian ambiance earlier than partaking its rocket-based touchdown system. NASA has simply accomplished the primary real-world check of the supersonic parachute that’ll badist the rover try this.
When the 2020 rover enters Mars’ ambiance, it’ll be transferring at over 12,000 mph (5.four kilometers per second), and it’ll weigh round 2,000 kilos like curiosity. You want an enormous parachute to gradual one thing like that down, and the issue is way more complicated on Mars. Earth’s ambiance is far denser than Mars, so the parachute must be further giant to supply sufficient drag. Lower atmospheric strain additionally modifications the way in which parachutes deploy, and that was the main target of the primary check.
Earth isn’t Mars, however there are nonetheless methods to check components of the 2020 mission in the true world. The habits of the chute could be examined at excessive altitudes the place strain is decrease. These checks at the moment are underway in a program often called the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE). In the just-completed first trial, a small Black Brant IX rocket was launched from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The rocket reached Mach three because it ascended to an altitude of about 31 miles (50 kilometers), the place the primary stage dropped off.
The solely payload for this launch was the parachute, which was triggered because the rocket’s second stage started dipping again down into the ambiance. The mechanism activated when it reached an altitude of 26 miles. Atmospheric density there’s just like Mars, so it’s a greater check of the supersonic parachute.
The 100-pound parachute fired from the rocket at practically 100 miles per hour. The rocket was nonetheless transferring at 1.eight instances the pace of sound (about 1,300 mph) because the parachute totally deployed, producing greater than 35,000 kilos of drag pressure. A high-speed digicam filmed the entire thing at 1,000 frames per second. You can see that footage slowed down on the finish of the video above. The rocket splashed down within the Atlantic Ocean a mere 35 minutes after launch the place NASA recovered it.
NASA engineers will go over the ASPIRE footage frame-by-frame to review how the parachute behaved throughout deployment. This design is just like the parachute used for the Curiosity touchdown in 2012, however NASA plans to develop a good stronger model of this parachute. That eventual system will grow to be a part of the ultimate 2020 mission design.