Tech Briefs

NASA needed to provide a software model of a parachute system for a manned re-entry vehicle. NASA has parachute codes, e.g., the Descent Simulation System (DSS), that date back to the Apollo Program. Since the space shuttle did not rely on parachutes as its primary descent control mechanism, DSS has not been maintained or incorporated into modern simulation architectures such as Osiris and Antares, which are used for new mission simulations. GFEChutes Lo-Fi is an object-oriented implementation of conventional parachute codes designed for use in modern simulation environments.

The GFE (Government Furnished Equipment), low-fidelity (Lo-Fi) parachute model (GFEChutes Lo-Fi) is a software package capable of modeling the effects of multiple parachutes, deployed concurrently and/or sequentially, on a vehicle during the subsonic phase of re-entry into planetary atmosphere. The term “low-fidelity” distinguishes models that represent the parachutes as simple forces acting on the vehicle, as opposed to independent aerodynamic bodies. GFEChutes Lo-Fi was created from these existing models to be clean, modular, certified as NASA Class C software, and portable, or “plug and play.”

The GFE Lo-Fi Chutes Model provides basic modeling capability of a sequential series of parachute activities. Actions include deploying the parachute, changing the reefing on the parachute, and cutting away the parachute. Multiple chutes can be deployed at any given time, but all chutes in that case are assumed to behave as individually isolated chutes; there is no modeling of any interactions between deployed chutes. Drag characteristics of a deployed chute are based on a coefficient of drag, the face area of the chute, and the local dynamic pressure only. The orientation of the chute is approximately modeled for purposes of obtaining torques on the vehicle, but the dynamic state of the chute as a separate entity is not integrated — the treatment is simply an approximation.

The innovation in GFEChutes Lo-Fi is to use an object design that closely followed the mechanical characteristics and structure of a physical system of parachutes and their deployment mechanisms. Software objects represent the components of the system, and use of an object hierarchy allows a progression from general component outlines to specific implementations. These extra chutes were not part of the baseline deceleration sequence of drogues and mains, but still had to be simulated. The major innovation in GFEChutes Lo-Fi is the software design and architecture.

This work was done by Emily Gist, Gary Turner, Robert Shelton, Mana Vautier, and Ashraf Shaikh of Odyssey Space Research. LLC for Johnson Space Center. MSC-25004-1

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).

GFEChutes Lo-Fi (reference MSC-25004-1) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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