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Pictures: NASA drop tests Ares I first stage pilot recovery parachute

NASA conducted two drop tests of the Ares I first stage’s recovery pilot parachute over the US Army’s Yuma proving ground from 14-17 August.

The two tests were the first of nine planned for the next two years to test the recovery system’s pilot, drogue and main parachutes.An Ares I single main parachute test will occur early next year, followed by a test of a cluster of main parachutes.In the second or third quarter of 2007 the Ares I drogue chute will be tested.

All images ©NASA 

Above: The Ares I first stage drop test vehicle descends with the pilot parachute 

The Ares I first stage is a five-segment solid rocket booster (SRB), similar to the four-segment SRB used by the Space Shuttle. During the tests a 6,800kg (15,000lb) test vehicle, 300mm (12in) diameter and 9.15m (30ft) in length, representing the Ares I first stage, was dropped from 10,000ft (3,000m) by a US Army CH-47 Chinook.

Above: The US Army Ch-47 Chinook lifts the test vehicle

Just before the test vehicle reached the ground another parachute opened to ensure the onboard instrumentation package had a soft landing. “The testing will included an examination of the differences between the performance of the recovery systems of the Shuttle’s SRBs and the Ares I first stage,” says NASA.

Above: The US Army Ch-47 Chinnok prepares to drop the test vehicle

Because the Ares I first stage is larger, with an extra segment, and separates from the second stage at a higher altitude than the Shuttle SRBs detaches from that vehicle, the Ares parachute system has to cope with a longer descent and potentially harder water landing.

Flight has been informed that NASA has also conducted Orion crew module parachute tests and further details will be released soon. 


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