On 15 August 2018, in the frame of the ESA ExoMars project called HADT, a balloon-based drop test was attempted at Kiruna, Sweden. Following the successful test performed with the second stage parachute at low altitude on 2 March 2018, this was the first attempt to test the complete parachute system of the ExoMars Descent Module, comprising the two main parachutes (diameters of respectively 15m and 35m) and their deployment systems.
After a waiting period caused by adverse meteorological conditions at Kiruna, the balloon was finally launched early on 15 August 2018 by the Swedish Space Corporation and reached flawlessly the drop position at an altitude of 30 km. At this point, the ground controllers sent the command to separate the ExoMars test vehicle from the balloon in order to start its free-fall and test the parachute system. Unfortunately, the separation command was not successfully executed by the ExoMars test vehicle and the test was aborted. However, the test vehicle and the parachute system were quickly recovered and are in good condition. All onboard measurements could be retrieved and their analysis showed that the anomaly was not located in the parachute system, but in the ExoMars test vehicle electronic systems. The test vehicle will be shipped back for further analysis. In the meantime, a new flight opportunity shall be planned, taking into account the stringent meteorological constraints of this test.