ExoMars parachute inflation.
Credit: ESA/I.Barel

The largest parachute ever to fly on a Mars mission is undergoing a series of tests for the European Space Agency’s ExoMars mission.

ESA’s ExoMars is due for launch in July 2020, with arrival at Mars in March 2021.

Inflation factor

The latest test was conducted in sub-zero conditions in Kiruna, Sweden earlier this month. The test focused on the deployment and inflation of the 115 feet (35 meters)-wide parachute, which will be the largest to fly on Mars.

Credit: ESA

The test demonstrated the deployment and inflation of the parachute with its 112 lines connected to a drop test vehicle, via the deployment of a smaller pilot chute. The assembly was lofted high above the ground with a helicopter, and the sequence initiated after the vehicle was released. About 12 seconds after the pilot chute was inflated, the second parachute release was triggered.

GoPro cameras on the test vehicle looked up at the parachute inflation, and onboard equipment sent telemetry in real time as it descended in about two and a half minutes to the ground.

Artist’s impression of the ExoMars 2020 rover and Russia’s stationary surface platform in background.
ESA/ATG medialab

First of its kind

The ExoMars rover will be the first of its kind to drill below the surface and determine if evidence of life is buried underground, protected from the destructive radiation that strikes the surface of the Red Planet today.

A carrier module will transport the rover and a science platform to Mars within a single aeroshell. A descent module will separate from the carrier shortly before reaching the atmosphere, whereupon a heatshield, parachutes, thrusters and damping systems will reduce the speed, delivering them safely to the surface.

Program support

The ExoMars program is a joint endeavor between ESA and Russia’s Roscosmos.

The low-altitude test of the large parachute manufactured by Arescosmo was carried out by Vorticity Ltd at the Swedish Space Corporation Esrange facility. The test was performed under supervision of Thales Alenia Space France as responsible for the Parachute Assembly System, Thales Alenia Space Italy as the ExoMars Prime contractor, and ESA.

To view ESA video on the parachute testing, go to:


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