By Deirdre Tynan • 02 July 2021 • 12:42
The planet Mars.
Landing on Mars is one step closer for British-built rover as a new and upgraded parachute for the UK-built Rosalind Franklin Mars rover has successfully passed a series of high-altitude tests.
A new and upgraded parachute for the UK-built Rosalind Franklin Mars rover has successfully passed a series of high-altitude tests, bringing further exploration of the Red Planet one step closer.
Rosalind Franklin has been built with government backing to try to detect life, past or present, on the Red Planet.
After several weeks of delays due to bad weather the latest tests to determine the parachutes’ fitness for use in the harsh conditions of Mars saw the descent vehicle dropped from a stratospheric balloon at an altitude of about 29 kilometres above Sweden.
The 15 metre-wide first stage main parachute performed flawlessly at supersonic speeds, while the 35 metre-wide second stage parachute experienced one minor damage, but decelerated the mock-up of the landing platform as expected.
The team will be looking in more detail into the origin of this new anomaly before finalising the configuration of the next pair of drop tests to take place in October or November from Oregon.
Chris Castelli, director of programmes at the UK Space Agency, said, “The Rosalind Franklin rover showcases some of the best of the UK’s space sector and will be Europe’s first planetary rover.
“It’s fantastic that this flagship mission is now one step closer to launching to the Red Planet to lead the search for signs of life. Adjusting and testing the ExoMars parachutes has been a priority following a series of unsuccessful drop tests in 2019 and 2020.
“The tests focused on demonstrating the readiness of new equipment developed by Airborne Systems, as well as verifying changes to the parachute and bag provided by Arescosmo. They follow ground-based high-speed extraction tests, conducted by NASA in California, in May. Landing safely on Mars is a notoriously difficult task. This testing is an essential part of ensuring a successful mission,” he added on July 2.
The rover was built in Stevenage by Airbus, while the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory led on a key instrument known as the PanCam, a high-resolution 3D camera which will look at the terrain and rocks to try to detect signs of life.
The UK Space Agency is the second largest European contributor to the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars mission, having invested €287 million in the mission and £14 million on the instruments. This, in addition to successful negotiations with ESA, secured key mission contracts for the UK space sector.
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Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.
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