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ExoMars Parachute Failures May Endanger 2020 Launch Date – Spaceflight Now

The ExoMars parachute deployment sequence that will deliver a surface platform and rover to the surface of Mars. The graphics are not for scaling, and the colors of the parachutes are for illustrative purposes only. Credit: ESA

The European Space Agency has confirmed a parachute to the ExoMars roovers mission set to launch next July, failed during a test over Sweden earlier this month, the second test crash of a parachute project since May.

The failure of the high altitude parachute test was August 5, a failure for the ExoMars team as engineers work toward a 19-day startup window that opens on July 25, 2020. This was the second parachute error to ExoMars engineers collided with pre-launch testing after a similar incident on May 28.

Four parachutes – two pilot chutes and supersonic and subsonic main chutes – will delay the landing of ExoMars once it enters the Martian atmosphere. The lander will throw out the parachutes and fire the brake rockets so that they can settle slowly on the surface of Mars.

Engineers made changes to the critical parachute system after the May 28 crash, but a follow-up test also encountered problems, according to an ESA release Monday. ESA and industry teams conducted both tests at the Esrange Space Center, operated by the Swedish Space Corporation in far northern Sweden.

"A preliminary estimate shows that the initial steps were completed correctly, but damage to the awning was observed before inflation, similar to the previous test," ESA told the test on 5 August. "As a result, the test module descended under the haul of the pilot chute."

During the test on May 28, engineers tested all four parachutes in the ExoMars landing system after dropping a test vehicle from a stratospheric balloon at about 29 kilometers (95,000 feet) above sea level.

During a normal landing sequence, a pilot chute must remove and develop a 15-meter (49-foot) supersonic parachute, a larger version of a disk-driven parachute, successfully flying the European Huygens probe of Saturn's lunar titanium. After the vehicle decelerates below the speed of sound, a second pilot chute will pull out a 35-meter (114-foot) subsonic parachute, which will be the largest ever flying to Mars and use a different ring-slot design designed for to produce more traction.

In a statement on Monday, ESA said the "complete sequence" was completed during the test on May 28 and all implementation mechanisms are functioning as intended. Both major parachute canopies had tears in their fabric, but the chutes did indeed generate "a good level of expected aerodynamic drag," ESA said.

After making changes to their parachutes and their bags, ground crews proceeded to a second high-altitude test on August 5, focusing only on the larger, subsonic parachute, ESA reported. This test also gave an unsatisfactory result.

"It is disappointing that the precautionary design adjustments introduced after the anomalies of the last test did not help us pass the second test successfully, but as always we are focused and working to understand and correct the deficiency to start next year," said Francois Spoto. , leader of the ESA ExoMars team.

The ExoMars-built European rooftop (foreground) and Russia-built stationary landing gear (background) are scheduled for release in July 2020. Credit: ESA / ATG medialab

ESA said engineers had restored all hardware from the test on August 5 for inspections. The teams also analyze video and telemetry from the test to determine what went wrong.

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

High altitude parachute tests are expensive and require advance planning. ESA said the ExoMars team is considering the possibility of producing additional parachute test models and conducting ground simulations to "mimic the dynamic nature of parachute extraction."

ESA is also seeking NASA's expertise in Mars parachute design.

The larger of the two main ExoMars parachutes worked as designed during the low altitude drop test in Sweden last year.

The 35m ExoMars Parachute is produced by the Italian company Arescosmo. British Engineering Form Vorticity Ltd. runs a test campaign in Sweden under the direction of Thales Alenia Space's French division, which is fully responsible for the ExoMars parachute system.

"Getting to Mars, and in particular landing on Mars, is very difficult," Spoto said in a statement. "We are determined to fly a system that will safely deliver our payload to the surface of Mars to fulfill its unique scientific mission."

If the ExoMars lander and rover misses the launch window next year, the next opportunity to depart Earth by direct flight to Mars will come at the end of 2022. The Mars launch windows open about once every 26 months when Earth and Mars are positioned in the correct positions in the solar system to make direct travel possible.

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

ExceMars Trace Gas Orbiter launched in March 2016 and is now exploring the Martian atmosphere with a set of scientific methane and camera search tools to map the changes on the planet's surface. Trace Gas Orbiter launches a Russian Proton rocket aboard a tandem landing ship called Schiaparelli, which crashes on the Red Planet on final descent.

Like its predecessor in orbit, the second ExoMars mission will launch on a Russian Proton button from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. A European carrier module will master the landing of ExoMars from Earth to Mars, where a Russian descent scene will bring the European ExoMars rover to the surface.

The Russian launch stage will remain acting as a stationary landing platform – called Kazachok, the Russian for "small Cossack" – for its own scientific measurements, while the European rover will travel several kilometers and break to a depth of 2 meters (6.6 feet). to collect basic analysis samples at the mobile robot's onboard laboratory.

Scientists have never studied material so deep below the surface of Mars, where biomarkers and organic molecules could survive on life-forms that may have inhabited the planet when it was warmer and wetter billions of years ago.

The ExoMars rover, called Rosalind Franklin, is being built at Airbus Defense and Space Facility in Stevenage, England. Credit: Defense and Space Airbase

Italy is the largest contributor to the ExoMars program, with Thales's Italian department responsible for all European industrial work. The UK is ExoMars' second largest financial factor, and the Airbus Defense and Space plant in Stevenage, north London, is responsible for building the aircraft carrier.

The ExoMars rover is named after Rosalind Franklin, a British chemist and X-ray crystallographer whose work has contributed to the discovery of the twin strand of a DNA molecule. Rosalind Franklin's car, now in last assembly at Stevenage, is the first European rover.

Rawlind's Franklin Franklin and Kazachok were supposed to be launched in 2018, but officials delayed the mission for 2020 after both vehicles slowed down.

Jorge Vago, a scientist on the ESA ExaMars project, said on July 26 that the Stevenbus Airbus teams were linking Rosalind Franklin's main rover structure to the analytical lab drawer, a toolbox that had equipment to deliver scale and soil up to three scientific instruments placed inside the container.

The connection of the structure of the rover to the tool body was a key point in the installation of the rover, Vago said. A training drill is also installed, and the suspension system and six wheels of the robot will be added later.

"At the moment, on the rover, the only thing missing is the locomotive system," Vago said in a July 26 presentation to NASA's Mars Analysis Group. "Everything else is already installed."

The rover is smaller than the NASA Curiosity rover currently exploring Mars, and slightly larger than the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that landed on the Red Planet in 2004.

In March, the Kazachok landing platform arrived at the Thales Alenia space facility in Turin, Italy, from its NPO Lavochkin plant in Russia. More components of the launch module, such as the aerodynamic shield and landing panels, arrived in Italy from Russia in June.

Russia's ExoMars landing platform is called Kazachok, Russian for "small Cossack." Credit: Roscosmos

The ExoMars cruise line, which will transport the lander and rover to Mars, arrived in Turin in Turin in Turin in April from its manufacturer OHB System in Germany.

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

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