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ATK and NASA Team Complete Successful Ares I Parachute Drop Test

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: 03 March, 2009  (Application Story)

Drogue Parachute Passes Second Key Test for the NASA Program
Alliant Techsystems , the prime contractor for the first stage of the Ares I launch vehicle, along with NASA, the U.S. Army, and the United Space Alliance (USA), successfully conducted the second in a series of four Ares I drogue parachute drop tests. These tests are for the development of the deceleration system for the Ares I First Stage booster. The test was conducted at the Army's Yuma Proving Grounds.

The drogue parachute reorients and decelerates the Ares I first stage booster to an acceptable speed and condition before the main parachutes are deployed.

The parachute test was conducted by extracting a 50,000-pound test drone from a C-17 aircraft at an altitude of 25,000 feet. The test drone was allowed to accelerate to a pre-determined velocity, and then the 68-foot diameter drogue parachute was deployed. The test measured the basic performance characteristics of the drogue parachute such as drag area and parachute inflation loads. Initial data indicate the test met all its objectives.

'The test went flawlessly and met all of our expectations,' said Mike Kahn, executive vice president of ATK Space Systems. 'We have a great team of individuals and subcontractors who helped ensure success of this important test, bringing us closer to full development of the new Ares I first stage.'

The parachute was designed and manufactured by USA at Kennedy Space Center under a subcontract to ATK. The chute is derived from the 54-foot drogue parachute currently used on the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB), which splash into the Atlantic Ocean after each shuttle launch.

The Ares I launch vehicle, which is slated to replace the Space Shuttle, utilizes a first stage, five-segment reusable booster developed from the twin four-segment boosters used to launch the Shuttle. Due to the added weight of the extra segment, and the higher apogee reached by the Ares booster, the current parachute system needed to be upgraded. Similar to the Space Shuttle SRBs, the Ares first stage recovery system will consist of pilot and drogue chutes that reorient and decelerate the booster prior to deploying a cluster of three main parachutes.

To date, ATK and its partners haves conducted three drop tests of the pilot parachute. Two more tests are scheduled over the next two years. Additionally, two successful tests of the main parachute have been conducted. Four additional main parachute tests are scheduled over the next two years.
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