A dummy ascended to stratospheric heights last week, as part of the European Space Agency’s ongoing preparation for its ExoMars mission, set to launch next year. The structural integrity (and reputation) of the dummy’s parachutes were on the line, and the above clip shows they passed the test.
Multiple parachutes were being tested in advance of the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars mission, which is set to leave for the Red Planet in September 2022. First, there was the 15 metre-wide first stage main parachute, which performed without issue in slowing down the test dummy falling at supersonic speeds. Then came the 35 metre-wide second stage main parachute, which got the job done, with minor damage.
“We’re very happy to report that the first main parachute performed perfectly: we have a supersonic parachute design that can fly to Mars,” said Thierry Blancquaert, the team leader for ExoMars, in an ESA press release. Blancquaert added that “there will be at least two further opportunities to test this parachute design to gain further confidence”.
Blancquaert said that while the second main parachute didn’t perform perfectly, it did better than previous runs; a couple of those included unsuccessful drop tests in 2019 and 2020. Just in case, this time around the ESA ordered some backup parachutes from the same U.S. manufacturer that made the Perseverance rover’s successful parachute system.
Both parachutes were armed with their own pilot chutes, and the dummy had a thermal shield. A rocket propulsion system triggered at 20 seconds before touchdown to ensure the system slowed down enough before touching down.
The next drop tests are scheduled for October or November of this year and will happen in Oregon.