Space X Successfully Tests Crew Dragon Parachutes
With its Crew Dragon capsule, Space X plans to eventually taxi NASA astronauts to the International Space Station
Photo Space X
Moving one step closer to its plans to send a manned spacecraft on NASA’s behalf to the International Space Station (ISS), Space X performed 13 successful tests of its Crew Dragon Mark 3 parachute system.
The backup parachutes would deploy to save astronauts in the event that things went really sideways.
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
We certainly want to get … at least on the order of 10 successful tests in a row before, before launching astronauts,” Musk had said. “So that seems like where the behavior of the parachutes is consistent, is across 10 successful tests.”
While parachutes may seem like old technology next to rockets, they can actually be devilishly complicated to design.
“People think that parachutes look easy, but they are definitely not easy,” Space X founder Elon Musk said earlier this month at a press conference with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at Space X headquarters.
“The highest priority has been the parachutes,” Bridenstine had said. “Elon has told me, and he’s showed me, that that’s where their priority is. They’re putting as much resources and manpower as they can to getting those parachutes ready.”
In fact, the parachutes are an upgrade from Space X’s previous Mark 2 parachutes. Instead of nylon straps, Space X is now using “Zylon,” a stronger polymer material developed by Stanford University. The chutes also have a new stitching pattern to better distribute loads.
“We think the Mark 2 parachutes are safe, but the Mark 3 parachutes are possibly ten times safer,” Musk said. “I think that the Mark 3 parachutes, in my opinion, are the best parachutes ever, by a lot.”
This string of successful parachute tests bodes well for the next phase, which includes a critical in-flight abort test to make sure the capsule can separate from the rocket were there an emergency after liftoff.
Photo Space X
Musk said that, if all goes well, Crew Dragon could be ready for its first crewed test flight in the first quarter of next year.