Orion parachutes become weight saving focus

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NASA's Orion crew exploration vehicle's parachute system is to become the focus of a weight-reduction exercise to achieve up to a 25kg (50lb) mass saving.

The CEV has been dogged by a total mass that exceeds its target weight and the CEV Parachute Assembly System (CPAS) is the latest subsystem to be a focal point. Made public on 20 June, the work is to have two phases developing lighter parachutes.

The first phase will be in the laboratory and could involve two builds of parachute fabric followed by joint and seam testing and its evaluation. NASA may choose to drop the second fabric build if the first meets its requirements. This first phase must be completed by 30 September. The second phase is a drop test using nylon in an accurate flight-model-like parachute design and descent conditions. The phase's final report has to be submitted by the CEV preliminary design review scheduled for 21 November.

NASA says the technology will help CPAS avoid the increased risk introduced by high-pack density. "Pack density must be low enough to allow for complete and rapid deployment of chutes, without damage," it adds. The work will also focus on the CPAS meeting the required volume constraints.

NASA will purchase lightweight nylon broadcloth with a weight of up to 21.3g/m2 (0.90oz/yd2) from Airborne Systems. This company is already a CPAS subcontractor and has been involved in landing system airbag research for the space agency.