Two more chances to get better or look at 2022
ExoMars Probe Module Technicians at Thales Alenia Space Plant in 2015 Pic: Mike Dota / Shutterstock
The European Space Agency and the launch of ExosMars Roscosmos 2020 are in danger after a failed parachute test.
The test focused on the largest of the four parachutes, the precursor of which suffered a tear the last time. Things went wrong again and a problem similar to the previous test was observed.
Radial tears appeared after the release of the parachutes and before peak inflationary pressures.
#ExoMars 2020 Parachute Test Update: Troubleshooting continues after last week's failed crash test. Recovered hardware and data currently being evaluated; the team is focused on solving the problem to launch next year. Full story: https://t.co/7ExyaQi352 pic.twitter.com/kfgk5XGgj9
– @ESA_ExoMars (@ESA_ExoMars) August 12, 2019
Back in June, ExoMars team leader François Spoto promised improvements to parachute bags as well as the packing process, but in the next test, on August 5, this happened again and the test module came down only when the pilot parachute was towed.
The 35-meter parachute – the largest ever sent on a Mars mission – worked great when it was dropped from a helicopter 1.2 km last year.
Getting off a 29km balloon didn't go so well. As the deployment sequence went according to plan, the damage to the parachute in 2021 would lead to even more European and Russian hardware scattered on the Martian surface.
Spot identified the second failure as "disappointing", but boldly insisted: "We remain focused and work to understand and correct the deficiency to start next year."
This was said by an ESA representative The register that backup tests were always planned for November 2019 and February 2020. The first major parachute is likely to be tested in the first and the second major parachute in the second.
ESA also intends to convene a team of Mars parachute experts to reflect on the way forward, in addition to its usual NASA / ESA meetings, as well as to develop ground tests that mimic the experience of high altitude.
Everything gets a little tight. The implementation of the included rocket means that the mission can only be launched once every two years and the next window is on July 25-August 13, 2020, which in March 2021 will place the Russian lander and Rosaline Rosalind Franklin on the red planet.
ESA told us: "A preliminary confirmation of the launch of 2022 must address a number of programmatic issues with all stakeholders involved."
A previous ESA landing gear, the Schiaparelli probe, crashed into the planet's surface in 2016 after parachuting caused it to rotate. Excessive rotation of saturated sensors, resulting in premature parachute ejection and, er, spraying.
One of the four main identified root causes was "Insufficient conservative modeling of parachute dynamics, which resulted in much lower dynamics than observed during flight".
Add to his ESA landing accidents his partner's landing in Russia, and some nervousness is understandable.
Currently, the agency continues to work on the basis that speakers will be able to sort things out. However, given the agency's history with the Martian surface, a spokesman told us: "For the time being, we accept that these corrective actions can be implemented in a timely manner, the first priority remains the success of the mission." ®
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