SpaceX has suffered a setback in its testing of the Crew Dragon parachute system losing a “spacecraft-like” test article. The test article is used as a shape and weight equivalent to a Crew Dragon spacecraft and was lost after it became unstable while being lifted to altitude.
On March 24, SpaceX was preparing for the 25th test of its upgraded Mark 3 parachute system. The Crew Dragon parachute system was fitted to a “spacecraft-like” test article that was to act as a stand-in for the real thing.
To test the system, the test article was tethered to the bottom of a helicopter which then began to lift it to altitude. However, during the lift, the test article became unstable underneath the helicopter and the pilot was forced to release it early.
As the release was unprepared, the parachute system was not armed and, as a result, the test article plummeted to the ground.
In a March 26 press release, NASA stated that although the outcome of the test was not ideal, the agency would always prioritize the safety of test crews.
“Although losing a test device is never a desired outcome, NASA and SpaceX always will prioritize the safety of our teams over hardware.”
Despite the unfortunate outcome of the test, NASA is still hoping to launch the first crewed test flight of the Crew Dragon in mid-to-late May. However, this timeframe is dependent on both SpaceX and NASA teams overcoming some significant hurdles including a global pandemic.