What Are Parachutes Made of and Why?

The most popular material used for making a parachute is nylon because it is strong, light and resistant to rips. Other fabrics that can be used to make parachutes include dacron, kevlar and silk.

The first parachute canopies consisted of canvas. Silk material was later used because it proved to be easier to pack and it was fire resistant, strong, lightweight and springy. Nylon was first used for parachute manufacturing in the United States when the country was unable to import silk from Japan during World War II.

Modern nylon parachutes use rip stop fabric, a structure of nylon that has been woven with an extra-thick or double thread to create strength and durability. Tears are stopped from spreading in the fabric as a result of the square pattern created from these nylon threads woven in regular intervals.

Other parts of the parachute that can be made with nylon include the harness straps, suspension lines and the reinforcing tape. However, the ripcord is made from stainless steel, while the metal connectors are made with forged steel that has been cadmium plated to protect against rust damage.

Testing equipment is used to measure the strength and ability of air to pass through the fabric of the materials used in parachute construction.