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Technora gives NASA’s Curiosity Rover a soft landing

7 August 2012

NASA’s Curiosity Rover has just completed its 100-million-kilometer one-way trip by landing safely on the surface of Mars. This could not have been achieved without the help of the strongest and largest supersonic parachute ever built – and its 80 suspension cords made of Technora, Teijin Aramid’s high-performance para-aramid fiber.

The parachute, together with its Technora suspension cords, is as tall as a 16-story building, and weighs around 60 kilos. Yet, for its journey into space, it was packed into a rock-solid bundle that measured only around one meter across. And once the Curiosity had entered Mars’s atmosphere, still traveling at 900 miles per hour, that one-meter bundle was literally shot out behind the spacecraft using a mortar rocket, before inflating to its full size in seconds. Its task was to slow the Curiosity from 900 miles an hour to 180 in less than two minutes.

This phenomenal achievement required the Technora suspension cords to withstand a force of at least 9gs – that’s around 27,000 kilos. And while the parachute had been tested to withstand almost 37,000 kilos of force, the Technora suspension cords actually had a combined breaking strength of almost double that, at 72,500 kilos. Together with its dimensional stability and heat resistance, this made Technora stand out for the NASA engineers. [Source: video Dr. Douglas Adams]

Watch Dr. Douglas Adams, Parachute Cognizant Engineer at NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, explain more about the parachute and the role played by its Technora suspension lines.

This must count as one of the most demanding applications for a high-performance fiber that could ever exist. Find out more about Technora and the other applications where it excels.

The Curiosity Rover landed on the red planet at 7:32am on August 5 CET inside the huge 154km-wide Gale Crater. During its almost two-year-long mission, the Rover will investigate whether the region has ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life. Read more about Curiosity and its mission.