NASA completes final parachute test for 2020 Mars rover mission


Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right or below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

NASA has completed the third and final parachute test for its as yet unnamed 2020 Mars rover mission.

Three separate test launches (one Oct. 9, 2017, April 20, 2018, and Sept. 7, 2018) determined which parachute design would be used for the Mars 2020 mission. In 2012, a similar parachute concept was used for the Curiosity rover mission.

For this test, NASA said the parachute, which was made of nylon, Kevlar and Technora fibers, was packed into a “small drum-sized bag” before being launched to an altitude of about 23 miles (37 kilometers) and a speed of about Mach 1.8. Then, within less than a half-second, the 180-pound parachute was deployed and fully inflated with a volume of “a large house.”

Though doing engineering tests to prove your concept always makes sense, didn’t NASA do this for Curiosity, which then proved its parachute concept further by actually landing on Mars successfully? The 2020 rover is supposed to be saving money by using the Curiosity design. Why were these tests necessary?

Share

5 comments

  • Col Beausabre

    Bob, We’re lucky we are not hearing about parachute tests for lunar rovers….

  • fred k

    That’s a really good question. The wikipedia page contradicts itself:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_2020#Design

    The rover is based on the design of Curiosity.[7] While there are differences in scientific instruments and the engineering required to support them, the entire landing system (including the sky crane and heat shield) and rover chassis can essentially be recreated without any additional engineering or research. This reduces overall technical risk for the mission, while saving funds and time on development.

    The combination of the larger instrument suite, new Sampling and Caching System, and modified wheels makes Mars 2020 heavier than its predecessor, Curiosity.

  • Steve Earle

    Col Beausabre said:
    “…Bob, We’re lucky we are not hearing about parachute tests for lunar rovers….”

    LOL!! Sad but True…..

  • Edward

    From fred k’s link: “The combination of the larger instrument suite, new Sampling and Caching System, and modified wheels makes Mars 2020 heavier than its predecessor, Curiosity.

    This is the answer to the question. The heavier lander requires a different parachute in order to perform the same job.

    If I am reading right, the only similarity to Curiosity is the chassis and landing system, except for the parachute. Also, for a heavier lander, there may have to be more propellant capacity aboard the sky crane.

    Many of the instruments that one might have thought would be common to both, such as the MastCam, seem to be updated for Mars 2020.

    The rover mission and launch are estimated to cost about US$2.1 billion. The mission’s predecessor, the Mars Science Laboratory, cost US$2.5 billion in total. The availability of spare parts make the new rover somewhat more affordable. Curiosity’s engineering team are also involved in the rover’s design.

    It looks like all that similarity and those spare parts save us about $400 million or 16%.

  • wodun

    At least it is an iteration rather than another one off.

    Obama was criticized for cancelling the next Mars lander with the Euros but this was a good way to go because there is so much investigating of Mars left to do. (Actually, Obama wasn’t criticized but Republicans were for NASA’s budget at the time.)

    It would be great to see 10 of these cruising around and controlled withing the cognitive horizon but perhaps we are just a little bit close to seeing something like that happen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *