Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
NASA Space Technology

NASA Tests Heaviest Chute Drop Ever 226

Posted by kdawson
from the not-so-fast dept.
Iddo Genuth writes "NASA and the US Air Force have successfully tested a new super-chute system aimed at reclaiming reusable Ares booster rockets. On February 28, 2009 a 50,000-pound dummy rocket booster was dropped in the Arizona desert and slowed by a system of five parachutes before it crashed to the ground. The booster landed softly without any damage. This was possibly the heaviest parachute drop ever, and NASA is planning to perform even heavier drops of up to 90,000 pounds in the next few months."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NASA Tests Heaviest Chute Drop Ever

Comments Filter:
  • ...does that commercial jet weigh?
    • by whong09 (1307849) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @03:22AM (#27308783)
      Cool? Try hot. As in dropping it like it's hot.
    • by tweak13 (1171627) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @03:24AM (#27308793)
      Well, some of the larger 747 models have a maximum takeoff weight of over 900,000 pounds. I wouldn't expect ballistic recovery systems for them just yet.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by wisty (1335733)

        Besides, most accidents are on takeoff, landing, or when the pilot didn't notice the mountain. No time to deploy parachutes.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by srussia (884021)

          Besides, most accidents are on takeoff, landing, or when the pilot didn't notice the mountain. No time to deploy parachutes.

          Indeed. Slamming into mountains is common enough to be given an acronym: CFIT - Controlled Flight into Terrain).

      • You don't need to chute the whole plane, just the passenger cabin (and the cockpit). Even then, you don't need to chute the passenger cabin as a whole unit. You could split it up into sections and chute each section. The problem is that most accidents are on take-off and landing. You're usually too low to deploy a chute effectively.
    • ...does that commercial jet weigh?

      Even if you had a chute big enough, most airline accidents occur at take off and landing, altitudes well below where a parachute recovery system would be effective.

      Remember the old Road Runner cartoons? Whenever the coyote would try a parachute he'd turn into a lawn dart, then the parachute would pop out of the smoking hole in the ground?

      Kinda like that.

  • 1 Question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Karganeth (1017580) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @03:15AM (#27308759)
    When will America start using SI units as the standard? Pounds don't mean anything to me.
    • by quenda (644621) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @03:20AM (#27308775)

      When will America start using SI units as the standard?

      In NASA's case, it would take something big to make them see sense. Like, say, loosing a major space probe.

      • Re:1 Question (Score:4, Insightful)

        by quenda (644621) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @03:29AM (#27308809)
        Sorry - unfair. NASA has been using SI units for many years. It was Lockheed Martin that fucked up on the Mars orbiter. Even the English do not use English units any more for anything more important than beer glass sizes. Actually, that is important. I've seen some sneaky Australian bars serve US-sized "pints", which are significantly smaller than Imperial pints.
        • by Techman83 (949264)
          Yes, but in WA at least, I don't think they are allowed to call them a Pint, rather a "Large" beer. Between stunts like that and the cost, I prefer to head on around to a mates place for a few beers!
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          An American pint is actually a copy of a British pint in 1707. The British later changed over to Imperial in 1824. Also, pretty much all of Southern Australia uses a 425 ml pint, and they call the normal 570 ml Australian pint an "Imperial pint", even though its slightly larger than an actual Imperial pint.

          • by quenda (644621)

            Also, pretty much all of Southern Australia uses a 425 ml pint,

            What!? Thats a schooner, not a pint. Only in Adelaide would that piddling amount be called a pint.

            Hmmm... maybe when I thought I was ripped of with a US-pint it was even worse than I realised, and the bastard gave me a schooner. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_beer#Beer_glasses [wikipedia.org]

          • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @05:06AM (#27309179)

            An American pint is actually a copy of a British pint in 1707. The British later changed over to Imperial in 1824.

            We had a choice between Liberty and More Beer. I'm still not sure we chose wrong.

        • by NevarMore (248971)

          "Even the English do not use English units any more for anything more important than beer glass sizes. "

          THERE IS *NOTHING* MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE SIZE OF A BEER GLASS.NOTHING!

    • Yeah, but when you use an alias like Karganeth you're Totally speaking a language I understand! Now I have to go dig my Orcone out of his storage pen and take him for a run in the dog park....

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's a shade over 6428 stone. If you have problems visualising that, imagine 918 weaklings or 357 burly rugby players. Which is 17 teams (with substitutes) composed entirely of loosehead props.

      Better?

    • Re:1 Question (Score:4, Interesting)

      by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @03:49AM (#27308891) Journal
      The ones who care already do. In some cases, it is easier to use the empirical system, for example, I can't imagine having to do construction with millimeters, but 1/8 and 1/16 inch are the perfect tolerances of precision when framing a house. The millimeters are just too hard to see because they're so close together. Try it sometime. I guess in Europe they must use them, so it must be doable (or maybe that's why they use bricks so much in construction instead of wood!)

      In other cases it's easier to use the SI units, like if you are a scientist trying to calculate the velocity of things falling. People who need to do this already DO use SI units.

      Finally, there are times when it doesn't really matter which one you use, like when you are weighing yourself, does it really matter if you use kilograms or pounds? Not really. The effort to change there just isn't worth it for most people. If we talked to Europeans more often, it might be, but.......

      Incidentally, it isn't just Americans. Other countries use a mix of measurements as well. For example, in El Salvador, they use centimeters to measure their height, kilograms to measure their weight, and liters to measure their water, and gallons to measure their gas. I believe Taiwan uses some traditional measurements as well.
      • Dang, I messed up there. I meant that in El Salvador they use pounds to measure weight, not kilograms. And for what it's worth from news reports I've seen and from talking to people, UK still seems to use stones to measure human weight.
      • The ones who care already do. In some cases, it is easier to use the empirical system, for example, I can't imagine having to do construction with millimeters, but 1/8 and 1/16 inch are the perfect tolerances of precision when framing a house. The millimeters are just too hard to see because they're so close together. Try it sometime. I guess in Europe they must use them, so it must be doable (or maybe that's why they use bricks so much in construction instead of wood!)

        I live in Australia and I do all my house framing in millimetres. I have never had trouble seeing a millimetre.

    • by nickgrieve (87668) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @04:31AM (#27309027) Journal

      Metric, motherfucker, do you speak it?

    • Since I know a thing or two about conversions, I've looked this up for you. The answer is the following: 50,000 (British) pounds is roughly 53,823 euros.

      I don't know what the answer is for Canadian pounds though... Sorry!

      • In Canada, a pound is where you store stray dogs. I wouldn't know how to convert that to euros.
    • by nmg196 (184961)

      Well here in the UK, a 50,000 pound dummy rocket is regarded as quite expensive. You'd think a dummy would be a lot cheaper than that. I'm sure I saw one on eBay for a half-a-dozen monkeys.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PerlDudeXL (456021)

      Feet, miles and knot based units are the de facto standard in aerospace. The scientists
      use SI units, the pilots do not. For a software I wrote I had to use SI units internally
      and had to convert those values to feet/miles/knot based ones before passing them into a
      pilot specific software. I work in germany (at the DLR if it matters).

    • by argStyopa (232550)

      Perhaps when your country manages to accomplish its own space program, you can use whatever units YOU prefer. Then again, if you have trouble dividing lbs by two to get approximate kg, it may be a while.

      Then you can have the pleasure of reading constant carping from the cheap seats complaining about the most trivial issues.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      I don't know but when I watch top gear they talk about miles per hour and miles per gallon. When I read Bike Magazine I see 0-60 times and miles per gallon even though they give the tank size in liters!.
      When I go to UK car websites they also give miles per gallon.

      Seems like the US isn't the only country that uses none SI units in the press.
      I am willing to bet that they used SI for the actually engineering.

      1 lb = 0.453592 Kg is your conversion formula.
      Now get over it and move on.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      When will America start using SI units as the standard? Pounds don't mean anything to me.

      Translation: "I am too stupid to do unit conversions with Google."

      But at least I've learned that whining about things not conforming to a more widespread system is a good way to get "insightful" mods. When will China start using the roman alphabet as the standard? Hanzi characters don't mean anything to me. When will Linux start using cmd.exe as the standard? /bin/bash doesn't mean anything to me.

    • When kilograms start meaning something to us?
  • by Morkalin (992168) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @03:41AM (#27308851) Homepage
    Maybe someday I'll be able to take up skydiving after all!
  • Recovering, fixing, and verifying the booster is an expensive proposition. How much does the recovered booster actually cost? The entire reusable Shuttle idea was kind of dumb because it was cheaper to stick with expendable launch vehicles than drag a huge piece of deadweight into space every time. What is the difference here? (Seriously.)

    • by berglin (846569) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @03:46AM (#27308869)
      But then we wouldn't have known how to build a reusable shuttle, which I'm sure left some residual science in other fields as well.

      Some things are worth doing just for the sake of it.
      • by Locklin (1074657)

        I'd argue that much less was learned building the shuttle. Thats why they are having so much trouble building a new launch vehicle now -no one knows how to build one first hand. If they had been building rockets for the last 30 years, the technology would have been improving in each iteration. We would be in an entirely different situation now.

    • by AikonMGB (1013995) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @08:00AM (#27310011) Homepage

      The shuttle concept in an of itself is not a terrible idea, however it got horribly warped by the Air Force's unrelenting requirements (i.e. payload bay size, etc.) and morphed into something horrendously inefficient.

      There are certain parts of rockets that lend themselves much more to re-use than others. In this case, I believe the intent for Ares rockets is to replace the nozzle each flight -- they decided it was cheaper to build consumable thruster nozzles for each flight than to re-process the expensive, intricate cooling designs for keeping a nozzle in good enough shape to use again.

      Aikon-

      • The shuttle nozzles are expendables, they are ablatives.

        The 'reusable' solids concept is about 4-5x heavier than it could be. This reduces lift efficiency, AND increases complexity. The Shuttle SRBs are the single MOST COMPLEX SRBs I have ever seen. I've seen the engineering drawings.

        Not to mention the man-hours involved in refurbishing the things.

        SRBs on the scale of the Shuttle and larger are far too inefficient. Cheap liquids are the way. Kerosene and alcohol are relatively easy to manage. And an e

        • by AikonMGB (1013995)
          From the Wikipedia article(s) on the SSME [wikipedia.org]s and RS-68 [wikipedia.org] (the former being the Space Shuttle main engines, and the latter being designed for the Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle, and later being snapped up for the Ares V):

          The [SSMEs] are removed after every flight and taken to the Space Shuttle Main Engine Processing Facility (SSMEPF) for inspection and replacement of any necessary components.

          A leading goal of the RS-68 program was to produce a simple engine that would be cost-effective when jettisoned after a sin

      • NASA originally wanted the 2 part airplane/spacecraft. They really were going to use expendable rockets for cargo (such as Saturn), while using the craft similar to Scaled Composites (the carrier aircraft would have been different). Nixon nixed that idea and pushed their working with the air force on a space truck.
  • by definate (876684) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @03:59AM (#27308927)

    Seriously, this is a useless measurement, it's way over things I know about. I need it in something practical, like how many libraries of congress is it?

    • The challenge would be getting your Library of Congress down as a single load.
      • by definate (876684)

        Well go to your local library of congress, and just drop my name, and they'll help you set it up for a single load.

  • At roughly 140,000 lbs, they're still out of reach.

    • by giorgist (1208992)
      Unless you use two ...

      I can't find the link but it has been thought of. All you have to save is the cabin. That is just an aluminum can

      no fuel, no engines, no cargo ... easy peasy.
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @04:56AM (#27309127)
    My first thought was that this had something to do with the new waste recovery system. Ever since the Pizza Hut pastas came out, I've been a ready and willing contributor of test samples.
  • crashed softly? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @05:49AM (#27309387)
    it crashed to the ground. The booster landed softly...

    WTF? If it "landed softly" it didn't "crash".

  • I'm curious about the engineering reasons for using one really big chute instead of a cluster of smaller ones as on the Apollo command module.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      I'm curious about the engineering reasons for using one really big chute instead of a cluster of smaller ones as on the Apollo command module.

      I might have read this wrong, but I read it as a 3 stage system, pilot chute to pull out the drogue, drogue chute, and then a cluster of 3 main chutes.

      • by Nimey (114278)

        Oh. The picture showed one big chute with the whole arrangement pretty near the ground.

  • by smoker2 (750216) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @07:57AM (#27309981) Homepage Journal
    The original press release is here [nasa.gov].
    This is pretty old news. If you want up to date news from NASA, subscribe to the RSS feed [nasa.gov].
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @08:30AM (#27310217)

    I want to see flyback boosters! There was a design they had for the shuttle boosters that would replace them with liquid-fueled models and they would also come equipped with jet engines. Launches as a liquid-fueled rocket, separates from the shuttle stack, deploys swing wings (which were flush with the airframe at launch) and fire up the conventional jets to make a powered return flight, landing at the Cape pretty as you please.

    I think they scrapped this plan because it would be too much development for a program near the end of its life but you'd think it would be viable for the boost stages of newer vehicles. The first stage has got to be the heaviest, most expensive part of the stack. The refurb cost on the shuttle makes you think it might just be cheaper to throw it away but maybe we could actually save some money with better engineering on something like this?

    • by srothroc (733160)
      But, uh, even though the shuttle boosters weren't flyback-capable, we recovered them just fine, didn't we? Isn't that money saved because we didn't spend it on a R&D program for automated return?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      I think they scrapped this plan because it would be too much development for a program near the end of its life but you'd think it would be viable for the boost stages of newer vehicles.

      They aren't as viable as you might think because flyback stages are expensive to build, expensive to operate and are maintenance intensive.

      The first stage has got to be the heaviest, most expensive part of the stack.

      Not entirely true actually... While they are the heaviest, the generally aren't the most expe

  • So. We're back to parachutes. While I suppose it's better than just letting the boosters crash, we're still not where we need to be. The age of the rocket is over, dammit, and serious work needs to be done on the next generation earth-to-orbit vehicles.

    This means space planes (The X-prize made it out of the atmosphere, if not the gravity well, on a private sector budget) or cool stuff like the Delta Clipper.

    Parachutes in the year 2009 is not a re-entry mechanism worthy of the manpower and money NASA has at

    • Delta Clipper was always a mistake for earth WRT going to orbit and back. We have the ability to actually fly or use a much lighter parachute with a load. Of course, the clipper is exactly what is needed for the moon, and something similar for mars.
  • ...before it crashed to the ground. The booster landed softly without any damage.

    It's only a joke that any crash you can walk away from is called a landing. So did the chutes not work and the thing crashed? Or did they work and it landed? Make up your mind!!!!
  • by Gilmoure (18428) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:00AM (#27311127) Journal

    11. Everything is air-droppable at least once.

    -Seven Rules of Highly Effective Pirates [wikipedia.org]

  • For work, I regularly spend time out at Yuma Proving Ground, and 50,000 lbs isn't that much larger than some of the other existing systems being tested by the military.

    Para-Flite's MegaFly [defense-update.com], for example, is a 30,000 lb payload guided parachute system (GPS-steered to land at a designated LZ), with a variant of it being tested up to, IIRC, 42,000 lbs, with 50,000 lbs being a goal. It's still basically a development system, but similar systems are regularly used for 8,000 and 10,000 lb payloads.

    Granted, ai

  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:06AM (#27311947)
    The US Army made a paradrop of a 40000+ lb tank in the late 1940's.

    Sixty years later, NASA manages an extra 10000- lbs. Wake me when they manage 100000 lbs.

Be sociable. Speak to the person next to you in the unemployment line tomorrow.

Working...