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Center Innovation Fund: JSC CIF

Parachute Canopy Instrumentation Platform (PCIP)

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Wireless communication with a parachute canopy represents an advancement to the state of the art of tools for parachute design, development, testing, and operation. Embedded instrumentation of the parachute canopy will provide the capability to directly measure data such as structural elements tension, canopy position data, parachute health monitoring, and other telemetry, further validating computer models and giving engineering insight into parachute dynamics for both Earth and Mars entry that is currently unavailable. This will allow for more robust designs which are more optimally designed in terms of structural loading, less susceptible to adverse dynamics, and may eventually pave the way to currently unattainable advanced concepts of operations. The development of this technology has dual use potential for a variety of other applications including inflatable habitats, aerodynamic decelerators, heat shields, and other high stress environments. 

Entry, descent, and landing capabilities, including parachutes, lie on the critical path to human and robotic exploration of Mars. To date, the capability to actively communicate with a parachute canopy does not exist and in turn, data regarding the dynamics and health of the parachute system is unavailable. Since wired instrumentation capabilities are limited in the operational environment, wireless communication with a parachute canopy will be an advancement to the state of the art of parachute design, development, and testing. Embedded instrumentation of the parachute canopy will provide flight data within the operational environment; in turn offering engineering insight into parachute dynamics for both Earth and Mars entry that is currently unavailable. This will allow for more robust designs which are optimally designed in terms of structural loading, less susceptible to adverse dynamics such as pendulum motion and gliding, and will eventually open the door to advanced concepts of operations (CONOPS).

The Parachute Canopy Instrumentation Platform (PCIP) is a technology that will allow for two-way wireless communication with the parachute canopy as well as the various structural components (risers, suspension lines, etc.). This system will need to be structurally reliable in order to withstand the harsh operational environment of parachute life cycle (large packing pressures, snatch loading, electromagnetic discharge) as well as ensure a clear and safe communication link between the parachute canopy and the vehicle which will not negatively affect other onboard systems.

The PCIP system is a platform that would enable implementation of a wide range of parachute canopy sensors and actuators. Establishing a ”plug and play” platform with a reliable wireless communication link would allow for a consistent method of obtaining various measurements almost anywhere on the parachute system structure. Due to the variation in timescales of dynamics of parachute operation (very quick deployments to very slow steady state descent), the PCIP system must be capable of responding quickly and be highly sensitive to measurement changes, yet maintaining an operational state throughout the flight of the parachute. The hardware itself must be designed small and light enough as to not introduce a point mass which will impart unacceptable forces on the parachute canopy. 

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