Testing Schiaparelli’s Parachute

This is a test version of the parachute that will slow the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing module as it plummets through the Martian atmosphere on 19 October 2016.

When the module is about 11 km from the surface, descending at about 1700 km/h, the parachute will be deployed by a mortar. The parachute will slow the module to about 200 km/h by 1.2 km above the surface, at which stage it will be jettisoned.

The parachute is a ‘disc-gap-band’ type, as used for the ESA Huygens probe descent to Titan and for all NASA planetary entries so far.  The full-scale qualification model, pictured here, was used to test the pyrotechnic mortar deployment and the strength of the parachute in the world’s largest wind tunnel, operated by the US Air Force at the * National Full-Scale Aerodynamic Complex in the Ames Research Center, California.