Is there life on Mars? Our customer Heathcoat Fabrics in the UK is helping NASA to find out!

Heathcoat Fabrics Limited was selected by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to design and make a super high-strength and heat resistant parachute fabric for the Mars 2020 / Perseverance Rover mission. And Heathcoat chose a Picanol weaving machine for the development of its DecelAir™ parachute fabric. Picanol’s weaving machine is the perfect solution for the production of high-quality fabrics for technically demanding end uses. You can read the full story below.

Peter Hill, Director of Woven Fabrics at Heathcoat Fabrics, explains: “The technical requirements for parachute fabrics to be used in space are increasing because the payloads to be delivered will increase in mass as NASA targets bringing samples back from Mars to Earth over the next decade. Higher mass payloads require stronger parachute fabrics with the minimum possible packed volume that is able to withstand an intense heating process which ensures that microorganisms from Earth do not contaminate other planets. These special parachute fabrics must also be able to withstand low temperatures in transit and then successfully deploy at supersonic Mach numbers at their destination.

The end result of the development project was a fabric that was 30% stronger than competitor fabrics on a weight-for-weight basis before heat ageing and 80% stronger after heat aging. The photograph above shows a Mars 2020 parachute made with DecelAir™ fabric from Heathcoat being tested in the largest wind tunnel in the world. Parachutes made with Heathcoat fabric were also successfully tested at high altitudes and supersonic speeds in order to simulate landing on Mars.

Mars 2020 was launched in July 2020 and it will land the Perseverance Rover on Mars in February 2021. During the mission, NASA intends to investigate the surface geological processes and history of Mars, including evaluating past habitability, the possibility of past life on Mars, and the potential preservation of biosignatures within available geological materials. Samples will be collected for eventual return to Earth.

Click here to watch the Perseverance Rover landing animations:

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