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Parachutes

Parachutes

This article presents hints, tips and techniques for dealing with parachutes on water rockets.

Contents

How to fold a Parachute

We are often asked which is the best parachute folding technique. The problem is there really is no "best" procedure for all situations. A lot depends on how much the parachute needs to be packed, what the resulting size and shape needs to be and how fast you want it to open. There are also a wide variety of parachute shapes and sizes. What works for one does not necessarily work for another. A parafoil for example is packed very differently to a parasheet.

One of the main criteria though is that it should open cleanly, and so careful preparation is necessary.

Existing Tutorials

There are quite a few tutorials available already on line. Here are just a few examples of the variety of styles:

After initially using the simple wrap the shroud lines over the canopy technique, we suffered the occasional tangle or getting caught up on on part of the deployment mechanism. We were then introduced to the following procedure: http://ausrocketry.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=480. An almost identical procedure is also described in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN5LzZJmP10

Since we have started using the above technique we've only had very rare tangles. This was often the result of the parachute getting caught on a fin during deployment when the shock cord was too short. The following procedure describes how we pack our parachutes made from ripstop nylon for use with the side deployment mechanism:

Procedure

  0. Pack your parachute just prior to launch. Don't pack your parachute the night before.
1. Shake out the parachute holding it by its shroud lines. Make sure you fully inflate it by swinging it around. This makes sure sections of the canopy aren't sticking together. You should always do this before each launch. Also check if any of the shroud lines are crossed over, and untangle them. This is often the result of a landing when a parachute can be inverted and thread through some of the lines.
2. Grab the end of the shroud lines and the tip of the parachute and pull it out straight.
3. Lay the parachute on a flat surface and bring all the shroud lines together.

Go through each of the sections of the parachute and make sure they are all sitting flat and do not have any folds in them.

4. Fold the shroud lines in half and neatly lay them in the parachute.  
5. Fold the parachute over in half so that you can't see any of the shroud lines.
6. Fold the opposite side over. You can fold it again to get a thinner pack.
7. Fold the tip of the parachute over.
8. Now depending how tall you want your packed parachute to be, you may want to vary the number of folds. Another one or 2 folds are normally good enough.
9. Fold the bottom of the canopy over (where the shroud lines are) so that the shock cord sticks out the middle.
10. Fold it over again so that the shock cord sticks out at one end.
11. Wrap the shock cord over the canopy pulling it tight to make the package smaller. When you wrap your shock cord rotate the parachute rather than winding the shock cord over it. This helps prevent a twist developing in the shock cord.

We usually only wrap the parachute about 5-8 times. A lot more turns means that the parachute will take longer to open. We try not to cross over the shock cord loops. I'm not sure if that's important or not, but it makes the parachute neater and compact. Having folded the parachute this way means there is less chance of the bottom of the shroud lines getting caught up on anything in the deployment mechanism.

And that's it.

Hints and Tips

  • If your parachute is wet either from spilling water on it, or dew from landing on the ground, make sure you dry it as best you can before packing.

  • People recommend using talcum powder on plastic parachutes to help prevent them clinging together during a deploy.

  • Don't store your parachute folded up. Store it hanging by the shroud lines.

2/1/2012

 

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