COOLIDGE, Arizona – SpaceX carried out a successful test of its Crew Dragon parachutes, the National Aeronautics Space Administration announced Thursday. The agency, which required the test through its Commercial Crew Program, released a video featuring the parachute test over Coolidge, Arizona.

NASA uses the program to contract private companies to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). This is one of the final tests required by NASA and once Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully completes its crew certification the capsule will start carrying crew members to and from the ISS.

“Ultimately, the goal is to establish safe, reliable and cost-effective access to space. Once a transportation capability is certified to meet NASA requirements, the agency will fly missions to meet its space station crew rotation and emergency return obligations”, reads a NASA statement published on its website.

Photo: TechCrunch/NASA
Photo: TechCrunch/NASA

In 2014, both SpaceX and Boeing won contracts to ferry astronauts and SpaceX received in November 2015 its first crewed mission order, with first crewed flights set to begin in 2017. In the meantime, NASA will continue paying the Russian Federal Space Agency to do that job. The Russian Soyuz TMA spacecraft lands in Kazakhstan after 3.5 hours of flight from the ISS.

When she heard the news, SpaceX CEO Gwynne Shotwell said astronauts will be able ride in one of the safest spacecraft ever flown once Crew Dragon starts carrying them to and from the ISS. She also expressed pride by saying the SpaceX team was honored to be responsible for such an advancement in favor of NASA and the country.

NASA first awarded SpaceX a cargo contract in 2006. Founded by business magnate Elon Musk, the company flew its first cargo mission in 2012. Compared with previous tests, the latest Crew Dragon capsule has more advanced parachute arrays with four main parachutes and drogue parachutes, which work by slowing the capsule before the main parachutes are deployed.

Regarding design, Crew Dragon has a climate-controlled cabin and remarkably comfortable seats for astronauts to have a really pleasant experience on their way to the International Space Station. Moreover, the capsule has an emergency escape system to warrant them safety.

A NASA representative said in the video that the vehicle will begin splashing down safely in the ocean using parachutes, but that the ultimate goal was to land the spacecraft on land using SuperDraco engines. Last November, SpaceX conducted a successful hover test with its propulsion engines, hoping that it would eventually develop the ability of a propulsive landing.

Sierra Nevada Corporation, another private company, recently won a NASA contract to launch cargo to the ISS. The Dream Chaser spacecraft, which can land on conventional runways, will start its first flights in 2019, running through 2024.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor