SpaceX achieves key milestone in safety testing of Crew Dragon spacecraft

Katie Ramirez
November 7, 2019

"We certainly want to least on the order of 10 successful tests in a row before, before launching astronauts", he said.

The parachutes worked as expected during the test and puts SpaceX Dragon days away from another big milestone: a ground-based engine firing of the Crew Dragon's abort engines on 6 November.

With its latest successful test, SpaceX showed that its Mark 3 Crew Dragon parachutes would be able to hold their weight even if not all goes according to plan. It fared very well, with thirteen successful back-to-back tests of the system.

The parachutes now look substantially different from the ones SpaceX first tested.

In the test, the capsule was dropped from a plane and landed safely using only three of its four parachutes.

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The Crew Dragon features an advanced emergency escape system (which was tested earlier this year) to swiftly carry astronauts to safety if something were to go wrong, experiencing about the same G-forces as a ride at Disneyland.

The assumption is with the Mark 3 parachute system now surpassing the ten test mark that Elon Musk had stated needed to happen before flight certification, that certification will be coming.

In a meeting with NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, Musk said that Crew Dragon could be ready for its first crewed "Demo-2" test flight in Q1 of 2020.

This changed appearance can at least be partially attributed to the use of Zylon, a specialized polymer, in place of nylon on the parachute lines. The chutes also have a new stitching pattern to more evenly distribute the loads. Shortly after liftoff, the capsule's SuperDraco thrusters are supposed to blast it a safe distance from the rocket. While it might seem like a routine next step, an uncrewed capsule exploded during the same test just a few months ago in April.

After a delay of nearly two years, SpaceX's Crew Dragon might carry its first astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) as soon a January or February of next year.

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