Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has successfully completed a high-altitude drop test of its Dragon spacecraft, the last major test of the parachute systems before the launch of the first operational vehicle later this year.
The Dragon was dropped from an Erikson-operated S-64F Air-Crane helicopter hovering at 14,000-ft, some nine miles off the coast of California’s Morro Bay.
Following release the Dragon’s dual redundant drogue parachutes deployed first to stabilize and slow the craft before three main parachutes, 116 feet in diameter, further slowed it to 16-18-ft per second before splashdown.
Following its landing, the Dragon was recovered by vessels and taken to shore. Click here to see video of the drop.
The real, operational version of the Dragon – the first of which could be launched as early as next month on the initial Falcon9/COTS demo flight – is equipped with 18 of SpaceX’s home-developed Draco thrusters. Using the thrusters during re-entry, SpaceX says the craft’s landing accuracy should be within a few hundred feet. The company plans to ultimately bring Dragons in to land on dry ground, and for this purpose will equip the vehicle with four stowable undercarriage legs.