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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

SpaceX's upgraded Crew Dragon parachutes breeze through 13 drop tests

•, By Nick Lavars

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.