SpaceX has shown off its new party trick with the release of a video of the Crew Dragon manned space capsule conducting a powered hover test. Though no one was aboard, the tethered mock-up craft managed to lift itself into a hover position using the its SuperDraco thrusters during a five-second burn.
The Crew Dragon test was conducted in November at the company's facility in McGregor, Texas. It shows all eight SuperDarco engines firing as they would during a mission.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,200 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
Once matured, the SuperDraco technology, which also powers the Crew Dragon's launch abort system, will allow the Dragon to return to Earth using the thrusters to slow the craft and then make a powered landing on dry land with the precision of a helicopter, and without the need for parachutes.
NASA says that the propulsive landing option won't be used on the first Crew Dragon flights scheduled for 2017 that will ferry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Instead, the capsule will make a parachute descent for a splashdown recovery in the ocean.
The video shows the hover test both in real time and slow motion.