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C-17 Breaks Record for Heaviest Airdrop

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --- Members of the 418th Flight Test Squadron here set a record for the heaviest single payload ever extracted out of a C-17A T-1 during flight April 14 over Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz.

A 77,000 pound Jumbo Drop Test Vehicle was extracted out of a C-17 at 25,000 feet. The JDTV is used to test the parachutes for NASA's Ares I launch vehicle's solid rocket booster.

NASA, in conjunction with Alliant Techsystems and the United Space Alliance, is providing a decelerator recovery system for the new five-motor segment solid rocket booster. This recoverable SRB is used in support of the Ares I space launch vehicle and is heavier than the current recoverable space shuttle SRB. The increase in weight requires a larger set of parachutes for deceleration and recovery. Testing must be accomplished in order to validate the design of a new drogue and new main parachutes for the Ares I launch vehicle.

"The test is designed to collect data and to see how the parachutes react to different weights," said Ellis Hines, the 418th FLTS C-17 Ares project manager. "Once testing is completed, eventually these parachutes will be attached to the Ares I boosters."

Prior to this record 77,000-pound drop the 418th FLTS staff had successfully completed 42,000, 60,000 and 70,000 pound JDTV Ares I airdrops.

The next airdrop is an 85,000 pound drop scheduled for 2011. The test program will culminate with a 90,000 pound airdrop scheduled for fall 2011.

"We have to do this incrementally to see how the parachutes hold up," Mr. Hines said. "The ultimate goal is 90,000 pounds."

418th FLTS engineers have partnered with Boeing to analyze the effects of these heavyweight drops on aircraft ramp structural members and collect data in real time during the drops. Additionally, mission systems engineers have worked hand-in-hand with Yuma Proving Ground officials and NASA officials to develop rigging procedures for the airdrop platform and test vehicle.

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Aircrew Breaks C-17 Record with Heaviest Airdrop