In the early hours of Sept. 7, NASA broke a world record. Less than 2 minutes after the launch of a 58-foot-tall (17.7-meter) Black Brant IX sounding rocket, a payload separated and began its dive back through Earth’s atmosphere.
When onboard sensors determined the payload had reached the appropriate height and Mach number (38 kilometers altitude, Mach 1.8), the payload deployed a parachute. Within four-tenths of a second, the 180-pound parachute billowed out from being a solid cylinder to being fully inflated.
It was the fastest inflation in history of a parachute this size and created a peak load of almost 70,000 pounds of force.
This wasn’t just any parachute. The mass of nylon, Technora and Kevlar fibers that make up the parachute will play an integral part in landing NASA’s state-of-the-art Mars 2020 rover on the Red Planet in February 2021. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE) project conducted a series of sounding rocket tests to help decide which parachute design to use on the Mars 2020 mission… [More at link]