NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover 2020 is carrying 60kg of Technora®
After more than a decade of careful preparation, NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover successfully launched on July 30, 2020, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA. Besides seeking signs of past microscopic Martian life, Perseverance will gather rocks and soil for its eventual return to Earth and deliver Ingenuity, the first drone to fly the surface of a different planet. Enabling this unique space exploration mission is Teijin Aramid’s Technora®. This premium para-aramid material will play a crucial role in the structure of the landing parachute, designed and manufactured by Airborne Systems, a trusted partner of Teijin Aramid.
Building on a platform of success
The Mars Perseverance Rover has a tough mission. Not only will it have to overcome the Red Planet’s challenging surface conditions – including average temperatures of -63°C, dust storms, and atmospheric electricity – but it will have to first descend and land safely. To do this, its parachute needs to support the heaviest payload of any mission to the Red Planet yet, and withstand extreme pressures and forces. Because of these high stakes, the mission relies on a range of proven technological innovations, especially for entry, descent, and landing – including parachute suspension cords based on Teijin Aramid’s Technora®.
Indeed, many of these technologies have already been tested on the four previous Mars Rover missions (Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity). In particular, Technora® was used to suspend Mars Curiosity Rover from its parachute during descent in 2012. Curiosity’s parachute was tested to withstand almost 37,000 kg (81,000 lb) of force, but its 80 Technora® suspension cords actually had a combined breaking strength of almost double that: 72,500 kg (160,000 lb).
Special properties for a special application
Technora®’s high-performance properties will now be put to the test once more, as the Mars Perseverance Rover descends on the Red Planet next year. In preparation for the landing, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) conducted an extensive series of parachute tests, called ASPIRE, to determine the reliability of the Rover’s parachute. During these tests, the parachute was able to support an inflation load of almost 31,751 kg (almost 70,000 lb). The video below offers further details on these tests.
All of this, of course, is crucial preparation for what is to come: with the Rover carrying its heaviest payload yet, the parachute will play an essential role in the success of its landing.
Collaboration at its finest
Behind the design, development, and testing that qualified this parachute for use on Mars are strong organizational partnerships. Specifically, Teijin Aramid is responsible for delivering Technora® to C.S.R. Braids, who have expertly braided the yarn into high-performance cords, and Bally Ribbon Mills, who developed the parachute’s riser. These items were central to the parachute design of Airborne Systems, a leading parachute design and production company, developing in collaboration with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a leading center for robotic exploration of the solar system.
“Each party in this value chain has contributed their own unique expertise and services to the Mars Perseverance Rover mission,” says Charles Lowry, Lead Project Engineer Mars 2020 Parachute System at Airborne Systems. “Together, we have been able to deliver a high-performance parachute that is among the most reliable, robust, and resilient parachutes ever created. Using standard specification materials would have increased the overall mass of the Parachute System by 50%. That was simply not an option. We could not have done this without the high-quality collaboration of C.S.R., Bally Ribbon Mills, and in turn, Teijin Aramid.”
“The excellent properties of Technora® make it the fiber of,choice in many parachute suspension line applications”
A particular set of high-performance properties
So, what made Technora® the material of choice for the Mars Perseverance Rover’s parachute suspension cords? In particular, the exceptional mechanical and chemical qualities of Technora®, which offers higher performance than many other high-tenacity synthetic fibers, make it ideal for demanding space exploration applications. In chemical terms, Technora® is similar to Twaron®, but it is different in that it is derived from a copolymer, giving it even more high-performance qualities.
“The excellent properties of Technora® make it the fiber of choice in many parachute suspension line applications,” says Frank Bradley Jr., President C.S.R. Braids. “In particular, its high strength-to-weight ratio, high heat stability, dimensional stability, and resistance to abrasion make Technora® well-suited to many aerodynamic deceleration systems for Earth-bound landings and interplanetary landings.”
Indeed, a wide range of suspension cords and cables can last longer, lift heavier weights, and survive extreme conditions when they integrate Technora®. In particular, Technora® can be used at 200°C for extended periods, making it suitable for the extreme conditions of the manufacturing process.
Follow the Mars Perseverance Rover
The Mars Perseverance Rover is expected to land on Mars’s Jezero Crater in February 2021 and will undertake its mission for roughly one Mars year (equivalent to 687 Earth days). By exploring the Red Planet’s surface and taking soil samples, it will help characterize the planet’s climate and geology and prepare for future human exploration by testing oxygen production in its atmosphere. In this way, the Mars Rover will help broaden the horizons of scientific understanding and pave the way for a better future – on Earth and beyond.
Fans and supporters of the Mars Perseverance Rover will be able to follow the spacecraft’s descent, and many other important milestone achievements along the way, via NASA’s online TV channel and by using the Mars Perseverance Rover hashtag #CountdowntoMars.
The world’s eyes will soon be glued to the all-important Technora®-enabled parachute deployment and the Rover’s landing on the Red Planet. Stay tuned!
For more information about Teijin Aramid’s Technora®, please click here.
For Teijin Aramid’s official press release, please click here
For more information about the Mars Perseverance Rover, please click here.
For more information about NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, please click here.
For more information about Airborne Systems, please click here.
For more information about C.S.R. Braids, please click here.
For more information about Bally Ribbon Mills, please click here.