Parachutes Pop Open Perfectly in SpaceX Test

SpaceX Parachute Test
SpaceX successfully tested parachutes that will be used on its Dragon spacecraft to bring human passengers back to Earth. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX's Dragon is on track. A recent video shows a smooth parachute test for the SpaceX space capsule that will one day ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

In the latest Dragon parachute test video, four red-and-white chutes helped a simulated spacecraft descend to the desert near Coolidge, Arizona, after the system was released from a C-130 cargo aircraft. A Dragon spacecraft was not actually involved in the test. Instead, SpaceX used a mass simulator connected to the parachute system. [SpaceX's Dragon Crew Capsule in Pictures]

Dragon has already been used to haul cargo to and from the International Space Station, but SpaceX is now working on a new system to carry up humans starting around 2018. The company is performing final development and certification work for NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

"SpaceX continues to perform tests of flight-like hardware that allows engineers to assess the reliability," NASA officials said in a statement. "Later tests will grow progressively more realistic to simulate as much of the actual conditions and processes the system will see during an operational mission."

The first versions of the spacecraft will splash down in ocean, but SpaceX plans to eventually land the spacecraft on land by firing eight SuperDraco engines. SpaceX tested this hover-power ability in Texas in November.

SpaceX and Boeing are working on separate agreements with NASA to bring astronauts to low-Earth orbit destinations. Separately, NASA is also working on developing an Orion spacecraft for missions to the moon, asteroids or other locations deeper in space.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: