Here’s some great additional footage from the Ares I-X flight taken from a chase plane, which shows the entire flight, including booster separation and parachute deploy — and the problems that happened with the parachutes. The video was taken from a Cessna Skymaster aircraft positioned approx. 10 nautical miles away from the vehicle at an altitude of 12,000 feet. The videographer used a gyro-stabilized high-definition camera system mounted to the outside of the aircraft to capture this spectacular footage which provides extremely valuable engineering data, and imagery of the recovery sequence in rarely-seen detail. This provides NASA with additional critical data from vehicle ascent, booster deceleration and parachute deploy.
The parachute sequence plays out just as Ares I-X manager Bob Ess described it at a press briefing last Friday. He said all three chutes initially deployed as planned: pilot chute, then drogue chutes, then the three main chutes came out and partially deployed to a 50% open condition to avoid shock to the material. But at that point one of the mains failed and basically became a streamer. Ess said it appeared the lines went slack, which would be indicative of a problem with the riser lines and not the parachute material. Then a second chute may have gotten damaged from the bad “streamer” parachute and the second chute didn’t open all the way. So instead of coming down on three parachutes, it only had one and a half. “So that caused the booster to hit the water at a higher speed than expected, with more horizontal velocity, so booster slapped down pretty hard which caused damage on the booster.”