Specialty Fabrics Review May 2021 - 10

[ BRIEFS ]

swatches

Heathcoat Fabrics delivers
a soft landing on Mars

W

hen the Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars on Feb. 18,
NASA engineers and space enthusiasts around the world celebrated-
along with the fabric engineers and production staff at Heathcoat
Fabrics Ltd. in Tiverton, U.K., who were responsible for developing and
producing the fabric for the mission's parachute.
Because of the distance between Earth and Mars, there is an 11-minute
delay in any communications. As a result, Perseverance hit the planet's
atmosphere without any outside guidance, relying only on autonomous
systems. And because the planet's atmosphere is incredibly thin, it offers little
resistance, barely slowing down the rover.
Just four minutes after entering the atmosphere, and still traveling at about
12,500 miles per hour, the rover deployed the parachute. According to NASA,
in the thin atmosphere, the parachute slows the vehicle to about 200 miles per
hour. The impact shock of " slamming on the brakes " at hypersonic speeds is
incredible, with the single parachute achieving a 98.4 percent reduction in speed.
Heathcoat engineers were charged with creating a material that could
withstand huge extremes of temperature along with the force of a supersonic
deployment, according to a press release from Heathcoat. " Mars 2020 is
carrying the heaviest payload yet to the surface of Mars, and like all our prior
Mars missions, we only have one parachute, and it has to work, " says John
McNamee, NASA Mars 2020 project manager.
The company's ultra-lightweight DecelAir™ parachute fabric is comprised of
Heathcoat Advanced Yarns® and is manufactured using customized weaving and
specialized fabric finishing processes. After high-speed weaving, washing and
coloration, the fabric is processed with a special finish to aid rapid deployment
followed by meticulous visual inspection of every centimeter of the fabric. The
fabric is then tested to ensure that it meets all of NASA's exacting requirements.
" It is an incredibly emotional moment, when you know that millions of people
around the world are holding their breath, waiting for news of a successful
touchdown, and that part of that success is down to the efforts of our fantastic
team here in Tiverton, " says Richard Crane, Heathcoat's technical director.
10 SPECIALTY FABRICS REVIEW / May 2021

ABOVE LEFT: The supersonic parachute that
landed NASA's Perseverance rover on Mars in
February undergoes testing in a wind tunnel at
NASA's Ames Research Center in California's
Silicon Valley. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ames.
ABOVE RIGHT: This annotated image was taken
by a parachute-up-look camera aboard the
protective back shell of NASA's Perseverance
rover during its descent toward Mars. Using
binary code, two messages were encoded in
the neutral white and international-orange
parachute gores (the sections that make up
the canopy's hemispherical shape). The inner
portion spells out " DARE MIGHTY THINGS, "
with each word located on its own ring of
gores. The outer band of the canopy provides
GPS coordinates for NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Southern California, where the
rover was built and the project is managed.
Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The camera aboard NASA's Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) was able to
capture this image of the final location of
the parachute that helped slow down NASA's
Perseverance rover during its landing on the
surface of Mars. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/
University of Arizona.



Specialty Fabrics Review May 2021

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