While the twice-revised system had malfunctioned in the past, SpaceX has upgraded the Dragon capsule with a newly-designed Mark 3 parachute system. The most recent test, which SpaceX shared a shorted edited video clip of on Twitter, involved using the system with one of the parachutes intentionally not deploying, to prove that it can land the crew craft safely even in case of a partial failure.
SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft has aced yet another critical test.
The deployment failure happened during a test of a system created to propel the crew to safety in the event of an emergency, Boeing spokesman Todd Blecher said by email.
The company carried out a pad abort test using the redesigned parachutes in September, where the vehicle tumbles at a low altitude, before the parachute opens and stabilizes the plummeting spacecraft.
The Elon Musk-founded company says it has tested the parachutes under this situation successfully a total of 13 times.
SpaceX performs a parachute test for its Dragon capsule over the Delamar Dry Lake in Nevada in August 2017.
Crew Dragon's parachutes, earlier made of nylon, have been modified to a Zylon-based material. It fared very well, with thirteen successful back-to-back tests of the system. SpaceX also updated the stitching pattern to optimize the load balance on the new parachutes.
Unfortunately, "the test was not satisfactory", Bill Gerstenmaier, then NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said at a hearing of the House Science Committee's space subcommittee on NASA's exploration plans.
NASA has picked Boeing and Elon Musk's SpaceX as the main contractors to build rocket-and-capsule launch systems to return Americans to the orbiting research lab for the first time since the USA space shuttle program ended in 2011. While it might seem like a routine next step, an uncrewed capsule exploded during the same test just a few months ago in April.
The parachutes worked as expected during the test and puts SpaceX Dragon days away from another big milestone: a ground-based engine firing of the Crew Dragon's abort engines on 6 November. The company later said a faulty valve led to the explosion and corrective measures are in place.