The Mars Perseverance Rover is carrying the heaviest payload yet in its latest mission to seek signs of past life on Mars and to gather rocks and soil to be analyzed upon its return. The landing parachute of the Rover needs to be ready to deal with the extreme conditions on Mars, including temperatures of -63°C, strong dust storms, and atmospheric electricity, along with supporting the inflation load of nearly 70,000 lbs. Parachute developers, Airborne Systems and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, turned to Teijin for the para-aramid needed to do the job.
Teijin’s Technora® is used in the parachute’s suspension cords and riser, offering the strength and durability needed to complete this crucial mission. Technora® boasts a successful history with NASA, also being used in the Mars Curiosity Rover in 2012 allowing a safe landing while withstanding a 9G force.
The parachute for the Perseverance Rover underwent extensive testing to ensure that it is up to the challenging task at hand, including wind tunnel testing at NASA’s Ames Research Center and testing creating Mars-relevant conditions using Black Brant IX sounding rockets launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Research Facility. In the final flight test, the parachute was exposed to a 67,000-pound load — the highest ever survived by a supersonic parachute.
The deployment mortar was also tested extensively. Perseverance’s parachute is packed tightly into an aluminum canister and when deployed an explosive propellant at the base of the mortar will launch the parachute. With the strength of Technora® in the chute, tests at the extreme temperatures that could be experienced were all successful.
Charles Lowry, lead project engineer for Airborne Systems North America, Mars 2020 Parachute System subcontractor, explained, “When designing and building the parachute system for Mars Perseverance Rover, it was very important to utilize the volume that we were allocated to its fullest potential. Thanks to its outstanding strength-to-weight ratio, Technora® allows us to do just that and increases the overall safety of the mission by providing more volume for stronger parachute cloth. There are many unknowns involved in any mission to space, but the tried and proven performance of Technora® is not one of them.”