SpaceX's upgraded Crew Dragon parachutes breeze through 13 drop tests
SpaceX is continuing to edge towards the next launch of its Crew Dragon spacecraft, with the vehicle's parachute system the latest critical component to be put through its paces.
SpaceX has experienced a couple of hiccups since docking an unmanned Crew Dragon capsule with the International Space Station back in March. Engine testing the following month then ended in a launchpad explosion, which follow-up investigations revealed to be the result of a leaky valve.
A perhaps less dramatic failure also came in April, as the company continued testing the spacecraft's parachute system that will be responsible for bringing any astronauts aboard safely back down to Earth. This test run took place with one of the Crew Dragon's four chutes disabled, to test its ability to land using just three in case of emergency.
Those three also failed to open properly, which sent SpaceX back to the drawing board to rethink the design. While the test wasn't successful, the data SpaceX gained throughout offered new insights on the structural margins and the ideal configuration, culminating in what the company calls its Mark 3 parachutes.
The company carried out a pad abort test using the redesigned parachutes in September, where the vehicle tumbles at a low altitude, before the parachute opens and stabilizes the plummeting spacecraft.
The latest test was again designed to test the redundancy of the system, demonstrating its ability to safely land the Crew Dragon when only three of the four parachutes are working. SpaceX says it has now conducted 13 of these tests successfully, marking the occasion by sharing a video of the chutes in action on Twitter.
SpaceX team has completed 13 successful tests in a row of upgraded Mark 3 parachutes for Crew Dragon. Most recent test demonstrated the parachute system’s ability to land the spacecraft safely in the unlikely event that one of the four main parachutes fails. pic.twitter.com/VJzDeS8UAG— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 3, 2019
And we can expect more testing of the Crew Dragon to take place before the year is out. SpaceX had planned a static-fire test of the Crew Dragon's for November 2, though this appears to have been pushed back with no clear timeline. A test of the spacecraft's in-flight abort (IFA) systems, meanwhile, could take place in mid-December, according to a recent tweet from CEO Elon Musk.
Hard to say with high accuracy, but 4 to 6 weeks is my best guess— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 30, 2019
Source: SpaceX (Twitter)