Text Size

SpaceX’s Dragon Spacecraft successfully completes High Altitude Drop Test

Test Date: August 12, 2010

Hawthorne, CA – August 20, 2010 - Today SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies) announced their Dragon spacecraft has successfully completed a high altitude drop test — meeting 100% of test objectives. This is the last in a series of tests to validate parachute deployment systems and recovery operations before the craft’s first launch. To view the video and pictures click here.

During the August 12th test, an Erikson S-64F Air-Crane helicopter dropped a test article of the Dragon spacecraft from a height of 14,000 feet, roughly nine miles off the coast of Morro Bay, California. In a carefully timed sequence of events, dual redundant drogue parachutes deployed first to stabilize and gently slow the craft before three main parachutes, 116 feet in diameter, further slowed the craft to a picture perfect landing. From there, recovery ships successfully returned the Dragon and parachutes to shore.

While Dragon will initially be used to transport cargo, the spacecraft was designed to transport crew and the parachute system validated during the test is the same system that would be used on a crew-carrying Dragon.

The two drogue parachutes create a more gradual reduction in speed, important for future manned missions, while the three oversized parachutes are important to ensuring a safe and comfortable landing, slowing the spacecraft’s descent to approximately 16-18 feet per second.

“Data gathered during the drop test will be invaluable as we prepare for the upcoming demonstration flight of the first operational Dragon spacecraft,” said Chris Thompson, SpaceX VP of Structures.

Spacex.com Ed. Kirstin Brost. SpaceX. Web. 20 August, 2010.