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Europe's problems with the Marslander parachute could be worse than expected



  When the ExoMars spacecraft lands successfully on Mars, it will deploy the Rosalind Franklin Rover.
Enlarge / When the ExoMars spacecraft lands successfully on Mars, it will deploy the Rosalind Franklin Rover. [19659003] ESA

In October 2016, Europe's smaller Schiaparelli lander entered the Martian atmosphere and attempted to touch the surface of the red planet. Due to a height measurement error, however, the lander's parachute system was triggered prematurely and the lander crashed onto Mars.

As for Mars, this was just another mistake in a long series of mistakes. Of the 21

lander sent from humans to Mars over the last six decades, only eight have successfully reached the surface of the red planet and performed scientific operations, all of which were built and launched by NASA.

Now the European Space Agency is again trying to launch its ExoMars mission, which will launch a proton missile next summer. According to the space agency, rover Rosalind Franklin, built in Europe, and Russia-led Kazachok platform are almost done. They are to descend in a descent module on the Martian surface. This spacecraft has a rather complicated sequence of parachute deployments to slow the descent of the lander through the thin Martian atmosphere.

  ExoMars 2020 sequence to launch the parachute. "Src =" https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/ 2019/09 / ExoMars_2020_parachute_deployment_sequence.jpg "width =" 4016 "height =" 2480

ExoMars 2020 deployment sequence.

ESA

The first pilot parachute and the 15-meter main parachute are still deployed at supersonic speeds while landing. The second set of larger pilot and main parachutes is used at subsonic speed. All of this happens rather quickly, as the entire landing sequence takes only six minutes from entry into the Martian atmosphere to landing on the planet's surface.

Many test anomalies

The test program did not go very well. In May, a fall test at a height of 29 km caused damage to both main canopies. After assessing the problem and changing the design of the parachutes and their bags, the agency conducted another height trial on August 5, focusing exclusively on the larger canopy unfolding in the lower atmosphere. Also this test was unsuccessful.

Despite these failures, European officials have publicly announced that they will push ahead with the launch of the 2020 mission. "It is disappointing that the precautionary design adjustments introduced after the anomalies of the last test did not help us succeed in the second test, but as always, we are focusing on understanding and correcting the error to introduce it next year. In a press release, ESA's ExoMars team leader Francois Spoto said in a press release, "

The problems with the parachutes could be worse than publicly reported." Ars has experienced at least one more parachute failure testing the ExoMars lander the Agency has yet to conduct a single successful parachute test to be used at supersonic speeds higher in the Martian atmosphere.

Efforts to obtain a comment from the European Space Agency on this information, or the likelihood of slipping after the launch date of 2020, was unsuccessful after a spokeswoman for the European Space Agency offered to investigate the matter on September 4. No further response was given.


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