SpaceX has confirmed it has completed a key milestone in the development of the Crew Dragon spacecraft performing a tenth consecutive successful test of its new parachute design.
A tweet from the official SpaceX account on December 22 revealed the completition of the tenth consecutive successful multi-parachute test of the company’s Mark 3 design. According to the tweet, the completition of the test brings the company “one step closer to safely launching and landing NASA astronauts.”
The shift to the Mark 3 parachute design was prompted by a failed test of the Mark 2 design in April. During the test, one of the four parachutes was “proactively failed” in an effort to demonstrate the redundancy of the system. However, the three remaining chutes did not deploy correctly causing the test sled to hit the ground faster than expected.
Since the failed test, SpaceX has been working closely with the company’s parachute provider, Airborne Systems to develop the new Mark 3 design. According to SpaceX founder and CEO, Elon Musk, the new design is “10 times safer” than its predecessor.
Testing of the new parachute began in October. According to sources, it got off to a rocking start with two consecutive single-parachute test failures. However, following the initial failures, SpaceX and Airborne Systems went on to complete 12 consecutive single-parachute tests of the Mark 3 design.
At an event with Musk in October, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine revealed that SpaceX would attempt to complete 10 multi-parachute drop tests before the end of the year. The target was seen as ambitious by many. However, as has become a habit of Musk and SpaceX, the company delivered in spectacular fashion.
Bridenstine stated in October that depending on how the parachutes performed over the 10 multi-chute drops, “we will know how many more drop tests we will need.” As a result, NASA may still require additional testing of the Mark 3 design before certifying it for the maiden crewed mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.