Houston TX (SPX) May 18, 2009
With Memorial Day just around the corner, NASA plans a spectacular aerial display May 20 of the newly designed parachute recovery system for its Ares I rocket. The centerpieces for the test are the three massive main parachutes - measuring 150 feet in diameter and weighing 1-ton each - the largest rocket parachute ever manufactured.
The Ares I, the first launch vehicle in NASA's Constellation Program, will send explorers to the International Space Station, the moon and beyond in coming decades.
The main parachutes are a primary element of the rocket's deceleration system, which includes a pilot parachute, drogue parachute and the three main parachutes. Deployed in a cluster, the main parachutes open at the same time, providing the drag necessary to slow the descent of the huge solid rocket motor for a soft landing in the ocean.
The primary objective of the test is to measure the drag area of the three main parachutes in the cluster configuration. Engineers expect the drag area will be somewhat less than three times the drag area of a single chute. They also will observe the inflation and interaction characteristics of the parachutes while opened in the cluster pattern.
This will be the third test involving the upgraded main parachute, and the first cluster test involving all three parachutes.
The test is targeted for 7:30 a.m. CST, at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground near Yuma, Ariz. It will be the eighth in an ongoing series of parachute tests supporting development of the Ares I recovery system. Researchers will drop a 41,500-pound load from a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft flying at an altitude of 10,000 feet.
ATK Launch Systems near Promontory, Utah, is the prime contractor for the first stage booster. ATK's subcontractor, United Space Alliance of Houston, is responsible for design, development and testing of the parachutes at its facilities at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Fla.
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