Europe and Russia Have ExoMars Parachute Problems. It Could Threaten the 2020 Mars Launch - Tue 13 Aug 21:12 GMT

The two latest parachute tests did not go well.

  Several ExoMars parachute tests have been conducted at a Swedish Space Corporation site, European Space Agency (ESA) officials yesterday (Aug. 12).

  The ExoMars team made some changes to the parachute system's design before the next high-altitude test on Aug. 5, which focused just on the 115-foot-wide chute.

  "It is disappointing that the precautionary design adaptations introduced following the anomalies of the last test have not helped us to pass the second test successfully, but as always we remain focused and are working to understand and correct the flaw in order to launch next year," ESA ExoMars team leader Francois Spoto said in the statement.

  So, ExoMars teams are also considering building more parachute test models and performing ground-based simulations to better understand the complicated, dynamic process of parachute extraction, ESA officials said.

  The coming ExoMars mission has a far more complex parachute decelerator system than those used for NASA's Mars missions.

  On the NASA side, the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) project — Spirit and Opportunity — went through similar nail-biting as parachute drop-testing at California's China Lake encountered problems.

  NASA’s mega-parachute for the Curiosity Mars rover mission underwent a total of six different tests between October 2007 and April 2009 within the NFAC.