Not content to wait for NASA to gets its next ship ready to roll, SpaceX has built its own cutting-edge spacecraft — and now it's testing out its landing engines.
The Dragon 2 crew capsule will be blasted into orbit on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, but it’ll be on its own to pull off a controlled landing. For that, the craft will use its eight onboard SuperDraco engines to (eventually) safely come back to Earth. Once SpaceX works out the kinks, the company hopes to land the Dragon capsule with the accuracy of a helicopter. Not bad for something coming from space and using onboard rockets, right?
As NASA notes, SpaceX envisions returning people to Earth from space on the power of thrust instead of beneath parachutes, as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. SpaceX is in the early phases of analysis, and the test featured a Dragon 2 capsule attached to a tether, as the engines fired up and lifted the craft. Engineers used the test to refine the landing software and systems on the spacecraft.
Check out the test blast below:
Though the propulsive landing is a part of SpaceX’s future, the ship will be using old-school parachutes and ocean splashdowns when it starts ferrying crew members back from the International Space Station (ISS) around late 2017.