NASA investigation over Ares Parachute Drop Test failure – UPDATE

by Chris Bergin

An investigation team has been assembled at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) following a failure that occurred on the third Parachute Drop Test (PDT) at the Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona.

The incident, which destroyed the Drop Test Vehicle (DTV), happened during a drop test of the pilot parachute on top of the DTV, which impacted the ground at such a speed, special excavation equipment is required to recover the nose of the DTV – which is buried 30 feet below the surface.
Huge amounts of VSE related insider news and presentations are available for download on L2. See list at the end of this article.


**ARES V / Mars Transport Vehicle (MTV) LIVE UPDATE PAGES**

Initial testing of the parachute recovery system for the Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle’s first stage booster had been going to plan before the failure, which is believed to have occurred last week. Further evaluations on all parachute systems will continue over the next two years.

Further information gained on the failure on Feb. 9 points to riser connecting the parachute to the DTV failed, which is not part of the booster system.

The test was a full scale prototype pilot parachute, dropped from a C-130 at 17000 feet. The parachute is in reusable condition despite the high forces it experienced.

Some of the remains of the DTV were found 14 feet below the surface, with additional excavation equipment en route to the scene to aid the recovery process. The accident was filmed on video – which will be a key element for the investigation team, as per information acquired by this site’s L2 section.

The pilot parachute, measuring approximately 11.5 feet in diameter, is packed and mounted inside the 1,500-pound DTV, which measures approximately 12 inches in diameter and 12 feet long. It is lifted into the air below a helicopter.

The tests involve an Army UH-1 Huey helicopter and a CH-47 Chinook helicopter being used to lift the DTV above the test range, before releasing it from an elevation of 10,000 feet.

After release, the pilot parachute is deployed, with a second parachute used to slow the vehicle down to protect instruments that measured the rate of descent.

On Ares I, the pilot parachute would deploy, before it releases the 65-foot diameter drogue parachute, which is used to manoeuvre the booster into a vertical position and slow its descent. Once the booster is slowed, a cluster of three main parachutes, each 150 feet in diameter, is deployed. The main parachutes continue to slow the booster to splashdown.

The pilot, drogue and main parachutes for the Ares I recovery system are larger and stronger than those used for the space shuttle boosters. This is because the more powerful – and much heavier – Ares I five-segment booster falls faster from a much higher altitude after separation from the launch vehicle. Fears related to the recovery of the five seg booster were recently dismissed by Constellation managers.

The schedule for the parachute tests are as follows: Jan-Mar ’07. Drogue drop tests: Mar-Nov ’07. Single Main drop tests: May-Oct ’07. Cluster drop tests: Nov ’07 – Apr ’08. Pad Abort-1: Jan ’09. Ascent Abort-1: May ’09.

L2 Resources For Ares I, V and Constellation:
Orion/CEV Display Layout Presentation (40 pages) – Feb 5. ATK figures on the 5-Seg Booster weight for CLV – Feb 2. Weather Shield (Rain Shield) for Orion on the pad – Feb 1. New Super hi-res images of Ares I – Feb 1. ATK Cutaway graphics of Ares I – perspective and axonometric – Feb 1. Ares I/Orion CxP 72031 Requirements Validation Matrix Information. CEV Paracute Assembly System (CPAS) Presentation.

Orion Launch Abort System (LAS) overview presentation – Jan 16. Major changes to Ares I Upper Stage – expansive details and data. Ares I/Orion CxP 72031 Requirements Validation Matrix Information. Saturn Twang Test Video for use with Ares I-1R. CLV Umbilical Trade Matrix XLS.

Vehicle interfaces for the DAC 1C version of Orion Ares – Jan 3. Ares I-1R Test Flight Plan (full outline) Presentation. Ares I-1 timeline and modification expanded info. Ares I troubleshooting latest. Ares I Reference Trajectory. Boeing’s STS to Ares – Lessons Learned Presentation. Latest Ares I and Ares V baseline Configuration image and data. CLV DAC-1C (Changes to CLV Upper Stage).

Ares I-1: Four Seg+Dummy ‘Tuna Can’ stage. Ascent Developmental Flight Test Presentation. CLV Pad 39B Handover Info and Latest. New images of CLV on top of new MLP and LUT. Lockheed Martin CEV/Orion Updates. Constellation news updates. ATK figures on the 5-Seg Booster weight for CLV.

90 Minute Video of Constellation all hands meeting. CLV TIM Meeting Information. CLV/CaLV Infrastructure, Timelines and Information. Escape System Trade Study Presentation.

CEV-CLV Design Analysis Cycle Review (DAC-2) Presentation. Constellation SRR updates. CLV Stick – Troubleshooting/Alternatives/Updates. New CEV Images (include abort mode). Flight Design and Dynamics Division CEV update. CLV Mono-propellant RCS system. CEV pressurisation system review. CLV/CEV Configuration Images. The 2×3 Seg SRB Crew Launch Vehicle Option Presentation…plus more.

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