HELSINKI — The European Space Agency has sought assistance from NASA in a bid to qualify problematic parachutes that threaten the launch of the ExoMars 2020 mission.
ESA is preparing two new high-altitude tests of the supersonic and subsonic main chutes for the entry, descent and landing phase of the ExoMars mission, following failures in August and May.
The new tests, to be held in December and February, will test the 15-meter-diamater supersonic and 35-meter-wide subsonic parachutes needed to slow the descent of the ExoMars lander.
Both tests, to be held at high altitude to simulate the Martian atmosphere, need to succeed in order for the parachutes to pass qualification. TheExoMars mission faces a final review scheduled April 2020, Francois Spoto, ExoMars program manager, told SpaceNews.
“Now the situation is critical, of course, because we have limited time and no margin,” Spoto says.
If one of the tests fails, the ExoMars mission will miss the narrow July 25 to Aug. 13 launch window next year and slip to the next window, in late 2022. The lander and rover segments are meanwhile progressing well and ready for environmental testing.
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