Space Exploration Technologies (or SpaceX) has successfully drop-tested a capsule designed to take cargo and crew to the International Space Station.
The capsule, called Dragon, was dropped from 4,240 meters to validate its parachutes and splashdown systems. It has three main parachutes, each 35 meters wide, which are used to slow the spacecraft’s descent, and thrusters that fire to help it navigate to it’s landing location. Eventually, SpaceX wants to bring the capsule down on land. The drop test was the final in a series of tests designed to ensure that the spacecraft is ready for its maiden test flight on the Falcon 9 rocket, scheduled for later this year.
“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 vice president of structures in this Space.com article.
SpaceX received a $1.6 billion contract from NASA to provide the agency with a launch vehicle and spacecraft to carry cargo to the space station, with the option of manned missions, once the space shuttles retire next year. Cargo-carrying flights are scheduled to begin in 2011, and SpaceX says crew capabilities can be ready within three years of NASA’s orders.