The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will soon test launch an advanced supersonic parachute meant for potential use in future Mars missions. The test launch will take place at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Tuesday, March 27.
According to the space agency, the parachute test will be aboard a 58-foot Terrier-Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket. The rocket will carry the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE) from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
The payload, which is a bullet-nosed, cylindrical structure that carries the test parachute, its deployment mechanism, cameras and other high-definition data recording and test instruments, is expected to reach an altitude of 32 miles about two minutes into the flight.
Once it reaches the desired level, the payload is expected to splash-down 40 miles into the Atlantic Ocean from Wallops Island from where NASA will recover it and return it to its Wallops Flight Facility for data retrieval.
The parachute, which is being tested, has been designed to slow down the Mars 2020 mission spacecraft as it enters the Martian atmosphere at a speed of more than 12,000 miles per hour.
This will be the second test of the ongoing series supporting NASA’s upcoming Mars 2020 mission. The first ASPIRE parachute test that was performed successfully on October 4, 2017. The space agency will broadcast the live coverage of the test on the Wallops Ustream site starting at 6:15 am on March 27.
NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission is aimed at conducting geological studies of the Red planet, explore the potential habitability of the environment and to discover possible landing sites for future crewed space missions. The rover will also collect samples of rock and soil from the Martian surface that will be brought back to Earth in a future mission for further analysis by scientists.
The NASA Mars 2020 mission is scheduled for launch in July 2020 aboard an Atlas V-541 rocket.