A new parachute design could help put larger payloads onto the Mars surface (Image: ESA/Vorticity)
Enabling & Support

Testing unusually-shaped parachutes

21/12/2018 290 views 5 likes
ESA / Enabling & Support / Space Engineering & Technology / Shaping the Future

A novel parachute shape was tested to see if it could help slow and stabilise payloads during their descent to a Martian surface

A parachute with a large hole might not sound like the most suitable method of slowing down payloads as they land on Mars, but a recently closed GSTP project, conducted in the UK, showed that the novel, gliding shape might be the best to use in the planet’s low-density atmosphere to keep any instruments stable. 

Historically, parachutes have played a crucial role in space missions for entry, descent and landing systems so being able to design, analyse, develop and verify a parachute subsystem is essential to  securing Europe’s role in providing international space access and utilisation.

In light of this, Vorticity UK, produced a series of different parachute shapes. One novel design played on a previous one known as the disc-gap-band type— a traditional cone shape but with a gap at the base leaving a ring of material. The novel design used multiple rings of fabric in the hope it would make any descent slower while keeping the payload stable. 

The novel type was tested in a wind tunnel and by dropping it from aircraft at high and low altitudes to see how it performed. The team also seeded the air flowing around the parachute with olive oil, to investigate the flow around the chute.

They found the unusual shape worked well, but that much more testing is needed to see if it can be used under operational conditions.

Watch Vorticity’s presentation at the November 2018 SET-FPDs here: