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Published on Sep 16, 2023

Parachutes: Does Size Matter


The objective: To determine if the size of a parachute canopy effects the amount of acceleration in a descent.


Have you ever wondered when parachutes were invented, or what do you need to skydive? Would you think that size, shape, or weight of a parachute would matter? Well, if you have or haven’t, read this paper, and after, you will be a parachute know it all. When were parachutes invented? Leonardo da Vinci invented parachutes in the 1400s. Parachutes then had frames (supports made of wood), but now they don’t.

Parachutes had frames because they needed support to fly. The oldest parachute had a bar the person held onto that was also used as a frame to support it. Other testers and inventors of early parachutes were Faust Vrancic and Jean Pierre Blanchard. The first use of a frameless parachute was in 1797, by Andre Garnerin. Garnerin and other jumpers jumped from hot air balloons at 8,000 feet. What are parachutes used for? Parachutes today are used for recreation as well as by the armed forces. The armed forces drop equipment attached to a parachute off a plane and the equipment lands on the ground. They also parachute soldiers onto the battlefield. Also, when a plane is damaged, the pilot can eject and open a parachute. The pilot then parachutes to the ground.

For recreational purposes, you have to be at least 18 years old to go alone or 16 with a parent or guardian. You also have to be less than 230 pounds, and be in good shape. You have to be a member of a club or a team to go skydiving. You also have to train to skydive, so you know how to deal with an emergency. Parachutes come in many shapes and sizes. One important question is what makes parachutes fly? A parachute flies because its large top creates a force called drag. Drag is when you are descending, but the air around you is “pulling you back”.

The parachute then glides down to the ground and delivers its load or person. No matter what shape or size, the parachute will always have drag, however, I discovered through my experiment that a larger parachute has more drag. You may ask why. The larger surface area of the parachute causes more drag. It doesn’t matter what shape the parachute is, the larger the parachute, the more drag it will have. Parachutes are also made from many materials. The best material is silk, because it is light, strong, and it doesn’t break easily. Although silk is the best material, parachutes are also made out of fabric or nylon.

The material of the parachute may also affect its fall. If the material is heavier, it will fall faster. Although I didn’t test different materials, I did discover that adding weight to the parachute makes it fall faster. One commonly asked question is what makes a parachute fall? A parachute falls because of the force of gravity. Gravity is the force that makes an object fall when thrown up or dropped. Also, when the weight of the parachute is increased, the parachute will fall faster than normal. One good question is what are the best conditions to skydive in? The best conditions are when there is little wind, and few clouds.

Otherwise, you have to be prepared to deal with extra effort to land in the designated landing spot. You would have to look at the local winds aloft forecast, look for cloud movement, or look at a windsock. You also have to watch out for turbulence and thunderstorms. What is the best height to jump from when skydiving? There are five categories, which determine which height you jump from. When you skydive for the first time, you are classified as a category one skydiver. You jump from a height of 3,500 feet. A category five or up jumper would jump at 5,000 feet. A category 6-8 jumper would learn to do tricks before opening the parachute. What can go wrong with a parachute, a safety expert may ask. A parachute may not release, or it can fall off your back.

When a parachute doesn’t release, a safety parachute will deploy. Sometimes the backup parachute will malfunction, but this happens very rarely. You can prevent this by doing a careful safety check. The average fatality rate for skydiving per year in the U.S is 1 in 175,851 jumps. Could we do something to make parachutes more accurate? No, it depends on the jumper’s skill. The jumper has to open the parachute at the right time and have the right distance. What are some interesting facts about parachutes and skydiving? Some interesting facts parachutes are the largest parachute has a diameter of 52 feet, for the Curiosity rover’s landing on Mars.

Another interesting fact is that the highest height someone has jumped from is 128,000 feet above Earth, at the border of Earth’s atmosphere and space. My conclusion of this project and paper is that parachutes are used for many things, they can be made out of different materials, and parachutes have many pros and cons. Also, I learned many cool facts about parachutes and skydiving.


The purpose of my project is to find out how long each parachute takes to fall to the ground.


I think that the largest parachutes will fall the fastest because the larger the parachute, the stronger the force of drag is.


My apparatus for this project is: 6 plastic bags, a protractor, a ruler, a timer, a pair of scissors, a weight, string, a pen, and tape.


There are two parts to my method.

Part 1:

My method has 2 parts, 1, showing the process used to make a parachute, and 2 how to do the experiment itself. Part 1:

1. Take a plastic bag and cut a large circle in it.

2. Cut the circle out and mark five points with a pen equally apart from each other around the circle.

3. Poke the 5 points out of the circle and put a string with a length of 60 cm centimeters in each hole.

4. Do steps 1-3 again twice but each time make the circles smaller.

For the third time make the string length 30 centimeters.

Part 2

1.Take another person and ask them to record the time it takes each Parachute to fall from the same point of height. When dropping them, do it from the top of a staircase, or on a balcony or roof.

2. Drop each parachute 2 twice with a weight attached to it, and record the results.

3. Finally, put the results on a chart or graph.


Circle Parachute Using Lego Man


Circle Parachute Using Lego Block


Triangle Parachute Using Lego Man



My hypothesis at the start of this project was that the largest parachute would create the most drag, so size would matter. I found through my experiment that this hypothesis was correct. My hypothesis is correct because a larger parachute has more surface area, which creates more drag against gravity, and creates more air resistance. The largest parachute still took the longest time to drop whether it was triangular or circular, because the shapes were roughly the same surface area. I also changed the weight to see if it affected my hypothesis, but my hypothesis still remained correct, because the largest parachute still took the longest time to drop (Although the lighter weight took longer.) In conclusion, size does matter, and the largest parachute does take the longest to drop, and if you want a safe landing that is the one you need to choose.


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Science Fair Project done By Ali Sunderji