The ExoMars 2020 parachute deploy sequence. During recent tests, the two main chutes have suffered tears in their canopies prior to full inflation. Image: ESA
With launch less than one year away, engineers with ESA’s ExoMars program are struggling to understand and correct problems with the lander’s four-parachute braking system.
Last year, the lander’s huge 35-metre-wide main parachute deployed and performed as expected during a low-altitude drop test from a helicopter at the Swedish Space Corporation Esrange site. But during a subsequent test of all four parachutes on 28 May, from an altitude of 29 kilometres (18 miles), the two main canopies suffered radial tears during the deployment sequence.
Engineers implemented corrective measures and conducted another high-altitude test of the 35-metre parachute on 5 August. Again, the deploy sequence executed normally, but the parachute suffered damage prior to inflation. As a result, the test module descended under a pilot chute alone.
“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,” said Francois Spoto, ESA’s ExoMars Team Leader. “But as always, we remain focused and are working to understand and correct the flaw in ...