As the world's largest manufacturer of Vectran®-based flexible composites, Warwick’s core fabric technologies helped to develop the mission-critical airbag fabric used in three successful rover landings on Mars: Pathfinder, Spirit, and Opportunity.
NASA required an extremely lightweight but ultratough fabric to protect its vehicles from the jagged Martian surface.
Warwick collaborated with ILC and JPL during the development of a multilayer soft goods approach for the impact-attenuating airbags.
The outer protective layers of the airbags shielded the inner gas-retaining layer against abrasion and puncture.
This multilayer solution met NASA's challenging mass requirements. The resulting protective material was as light as a pair of dress pants yet stood up to the challenging Mars environment.
The overall significant mass savings of the project helped make it possible for NASA to include the microrover, Sojourner, on the Pathfinder mission.
After launch from Cape Canaveral, the vehicles endured the extreme cold of deep space followed by the fiery heat of reentry into Mars' atmosphere. Even after exposure to these environmental extremes, the airbags successfully dissipated the energy of a 45 mph impact into the sharp and rocky Mars terrain.
Warwick now uses this technology to provide an exceptional level of protection and performance in a wide range of specially engineered fabrics and materials — even if you're planning on staying a little closer to home.
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