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418th FLTS Breaks Record With Heaviest Airdrop

A jumbo drop test vehicle is loaded onto a C-17A T-1 April 14. The JDTV was dropped over the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground to test the deceleration and recovery parachutes. The 77,000-pound JDTV set a record for heaviest single load ever extracted out of a C-17 during flight. NASA photo
by Kenji Thuloweit
95 Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Edwards AFB CA (SPX) Apr 23, 2010
Whether it's breaking through the sound barrier or flying different aircraft at the highest possible altitude, Edwards is no stranger to setting aviation records. Flight Test Nation delivered another first when the 418th Flight Test Squadron set a record for the heaviest single payload ever extracted out of a C-17 during flight April 14.

A 77,000 pound jumbo drop test vehicle was extracted out of a C-17A T-1 at 25,000 feet over the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. The JDTV is used to test the parachutes for NASA's Ares I launch vehicle's solid rocket booster.

NASA, in conjunction with Alliant Techsystems and the United Space Alliance, is providing a decelerator recovery system for the new five-motor segment solid rocket booster.

This recoverable SRB is used in support of the Ares I space launch vehicle and is heavier than the current recoverable space shuttle SRB. The increase in weight requires a larger set of parachutes for deceleration and recovery. Testing must be accomplished in order to validate the design of a new drogue and new main parachutes for the Ares I launch vehicle.

"The test is designed to collect data and to see how the parachutes react to different weights," said Ellis Hines, 418th FLTS, C-17 Ares project manager. "Once the entire testing is completed, eventually these parachutes will be attached to the Ares I boosters."

Prior to this record 77,000-pound drop, the 418th FLTS has successfully completed 42-, 60-, and 70,000-pound JDTV Ares I airdrops. The next airdrop is scheduled for 2011 and will be with an 85,000-pound JDTV. The test program will culminate with a 90,000-pound airdrop scheduled for fall 2011.

"We have to do this incrementally to see how the parachutes hold up," said Mr. Hines. "The ultimate goal is 90,000-pounds".

The C-17 airdrop is part of the JDTV phase II test system which is comprised of a JDTV and a carriage extraction system. The CES is the carriage for the JDTV, which is used for transportation, aircraft loading, extraction and reorientation of the jumbo drop test vehicle prior to its release.

Test pilots on the project have spent hours in the simulator and aircraft training for the drop tests, to include practicing contingencies and malfunctions and performing airdrops to prepare for the dynamic response of the aircraft during the extraction of the test vehicle.

418th FLTS engineers have partnered with Boeing to analyze the effects of these heavyweight drops on aircraft ramp structural members and collect data in real time during the drops. Additionally, mission systems engineers have worked hand in hand with Yuma Proving Ground personnel and NASA to develop rigging procedures for the airdrop platform and test vehicle.

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