NASA JPL – Mars Science Laboratory Parachute Consultancy

Mission Background:

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission is preparing to set down a large, mobile laboratory — the rover Curiosity — using precision landing technology that makes many of Mars’ most intriguing regions viable destinations for the first time.

The Mars Science Laboratory was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on November 26, 2011, and arrives at Mars in August 2012.

During the three minutes before touchdown, the spacecraft slows its descent with a parachute, and then uses retro rockets mounted around the rim of an upper stage.

During the 23 months after landing, Curiosity will analyse dozens of samples drilled from rocks or scooped from the ground as it explores with greater range than any previous Mars rover.

Customer Requirements:

Vorticity were tasked with conducting FSI simulations of the Mars Science Laboratory parachute as part of the verification of the design. We were required to show robust performance over the operation Mach number range and to investigate the effect on performance of the distance the parachute flies behind the probe.

Our Work:

Vorticity was engaged by NASA to provide a specialist view of how a parachute would  perform at low supersonic and subsonic Mach numbers in a low density atmosphere.

Vorticity conducted a fluid structure interaction simulations of the proposed Mars Science Laboratory supersonic parachute over its operational Mach number to advise on the optimal configuration for robust performance in the supersonic flight regime and define performance at specific Mach numbers.

Vorticity’s study has informed a small but vital part of this incredible mission to Mars.