SpaceX completes Crew Dragon parachute test
SpaceX has successfullycarried out a drop test for the four main parachutes that will formthe principal stage of the Crew Dragon's descent system. The test,and many others like it, are a necessary step required to becompleted by the next-gen spacecraft in order for SpaceX to fulfillits obligations under NASA's Commercial Crew Program.
The drop trial made useof a mass simulator rather than a full mock spacecraft – thepreferred method of testing for Boeing's Starliner spacecraft andNASA's own Orion spacecraft. That said, according to NASA, SpaceXplans to switch to a full mock capsule as the descent system testingbecomes more advanced.
During the test, themass simulator was dropped from thousands of feet in the air from theback of a C-130 aircraft, deploying four main parachutes using theexact same deployment techniques that would be employed with a dragoncapsule returning crew members from the ISS. It is worth notinghowever that the test was not of the entire parachute system, as thedrop did not include the drogue chutes that would ordinarily precedethe four main chutes.
The first missionsundertaken by the Crew Dragon to transport and return astronauts tolow-Earth orbit would require the capsule to descend under the moreconventional parachute system outlined above, culminating in an oceanlanding.
However, SpaceXenvisions a more ambitious deceleration technique that would one daysee the spacecraft make its final descent under the power of eightSuperDraco engines built into the walls of the capsule.
The company assessed thecapabilities of the integrated SuperDraco thrusters in a live fire test on Nov. 24 at its rocket development facility in McGregor,Texas. During the test, the capsule successfully raised itself into ahover position for a period of around five seconds.
Scroll down for footage of the drop test, courtesy of NASA.