Dutch parachutes will land European rover on Mars

The joint ESA/Roskosmos ExoMars mission will search for evidence of life on Mars. For the mission to succeed, a European rover has to make a soft landing on the surface of the Red Planet. The Dutch research organisation TNO and Aerospace Propulsion Products (APP) are developing a Parachute Deployment Device (PDD) to make that happen.

The PDD exists of two mortars that will launch parachutes to slow down the Decent Module in the Martian atmosphere. TNO has selected and qualified a commercial off the shelf gun powder as propellant for the mortars and executed a broad range of tests to verify suitability of the gunpowder to survive the harsh environment experienced during its journey to Mars. Furthermore, TNO has performed shock and vibration tests, aging tests and characterisation firings. The propellant has passed all of these test successfully.

The chamber in which the propellant is combusted, the gas generator, is equipped with an innovative internal burst disk which is patented by TNO and was previously developed for launching commercial fireworks. This internal burst disk ensures a high-level of reproducibility in the performance of the mortar.

Additionally, TNO was responsible for the execution of test-firing the engineering model, and later the qualification model of the PDD. These tests were successfully executed at the TNO location Rijswijk (Zuid-Holland).

The Parachute Deployment Device (PDD) is part of the complete parachute system of the Decent Module, for which Thales Alenia Space France (TAS-F) is the main contractor. The Work performed at TNO contributes to the realisation of the first full-European parachute deployment system for spacecrafts in thirty years and enables our customers to perform a safe decent to the Martian Surface.

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