Guided Parafoil High Altitude Research II

PI: Garrett (Storm) Dunker, Airborne Systems North America of CA Inc.

The central objective for GPHAR II is to enable precision delivery or Mid-Air Retrieval of scientific payloads by increasing the cross-range ability of the gliding parafoil delivery parachute by opening the parafoil at a significantly higher altitude than is currently possible. The traditional option for recovery is ballistic parachute recovery (such as Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters and Apollo & Soyuz capsules) which offers some re-use. The items recovered using ballistic parachutes are logistically challenging and expensive to recover and retrieve. The promise of parafoil parachute recovery is the ability to glide, steer, and essentially navigate the recovered item to a desirable low logistical burden recovery zone, potentially the launch site in some instances, or to permit mid-air retrieval. Expected improvements would be reduced costs, reduced parachute weight (parafoils can be much lighter than their ballistic alternatives), reduced recovery time and improved turnaround times.

This is a continuation of T0066.

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA09 Entry, Descent and Landing Systems
  • TA13 Ground and Launch Systems Processing
Problem Statement

This objective will be realized through development testing of a 100 kg test bed which includes two helium balloon flights to 60,000 ft MSL, and a third to possibly 100,000 ft or higher. On these flights, a parafoil designed specifically for high altitude flight will be flown using the legacy GPHAR I guidance unit, proving the redesigned parafoil's docile and controllable performance characteristics.

Technology Maturation

The first flight will provide control characterization information over the parachute. The second flight will demonstrate control over the parachute using flight software GN&C. The third and final flight will demonstrate an fully autonomous altitude management, selection of landing point, and precision landing flight profile. On successful completion of the 3rd flight, the precision delivery technology from high altitude will advance to TRL 6.

Future Customers

The significance of that achievement, when realized, is that this technology will create a new lower cost option for balloon payload recovery, open new recovery possibilities for space applications, and expand significantly the mid-air retrieval applications by enabling helicopter intercept at higher altitudes, with more attempts at intercepting, and reduced flight range required by the helicopter.

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    REDDI-F1-16B (Jan 2017)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 2 Balloon

Development Team

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