Whole Object Name
Beagle 2 Parachute Packing Jig
How do you fit a large parachute into a small spacecraft? This question faced the team working on the UK’s Beagle 2 mission to Mars. For a successful landing, all the elements of the parachute must deploy smoothly and in the correct sequence, which is controlled by the way the parachute is packed.
The awkward shape of the stowage space in the Beagle 2 lander made the challenge even more difficult. To recreate this shape, the jig was manufactured using a casting technique using a granite filled resin. This gave a sub-millimetre level of accuracy and a substantial weight to apply to the parachute pack. Leaving the parachute packed in the jig for a suitable time served to eliminate any internal stresses, to help ensure the parachute would retain the correct shape during assembly - and importantly, deploy in the correct sequence in the low density Martian atmosphere.
Beagle 2 was due to land on Christmas Day 2003, but after no contact was received from the lander the mission was presumed lost. The cause of this remained a mystery until January 2015 when the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured an image of Beagle 2 on the Martian surface. This showed that the parachute deployed successfully and the UK had actually landed its first spacecraft on the surface of another planet.