From the Queen's wedding to landing on Mars: the Devon factory famed for its textile

NASA equipment attached to a parachute Credit: NASA

Engineers from NASA have visited a textile factory in Tiverton where fabric is being made for a mission to Mars.

When NASA landed its Perseverance Rover on Mars in February 2021, the parachute it carried was vital to the success of the mission, helping it touch down safely on the planet's surface.

That fabric was made at Heathcoat's factory in Tiverton and did such a good job that NASA has returned for its next Mars mission.

Katie Siegel, from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said: "They wove a new fabric for us that, you know, we've never used before. We tested it thoroughly and then it it landed us on Mars.

Katie Siegel from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Credit: ITV

"So now we're back again, after another selection process, for our new mission because we need even stronger fabric for an even larger parachute."

Peter Hill of Heathcoat Fabrics said: "What you're really looking for is high performance.

"You want the highest possible strength with the lowest possible weight because it's expensive to take anything to Mars or another planet or the space station and back.

"So you're looking for that and also it must have heat resistance, because before objects can be landed on Mars, they have to be heat treated. And that heat treatment can reduce the strength of the fabric. So our fabrics are specially designed so they retain their strength."

The innovation has won the company the prestigious Queen's Award for Enterprise.

Children from the local High School were asked to come and take part in the presentation.

Inside the factory where parachute material is being made for NASA missions Credit: ITV

The factory in Tiverton already has a connection with Queen Elizabeth. They made the fabric for the veil she wore on her wedding day in 1947 and so it's somehow appropriate that they have received one of the final awards she approved.

The Lord Lieutenant of Devon, David Fursdon, said: "She was interested in the performance of business.

"She would have been thrilled about this one because this is actually a step above what one might expect for a small town like Tiverton to be producing stuff going to NASA for a Mars mission. I think it's just incredible."

NASA's next mission to Mars is to send a Sample Retrieval Lander, with another parachute woven in Tiverton, to help it land on the planet's surface sometime in 2028.