SpaceX has announced that it has now completed 13 successful tests of the Mark 3 parachute system. To get its certification reportedly required ten successful tests in a row for the system. The 13th test was different than other tests that have been run. In this test, one of the four parachutes was purposefully not deployed.
The idea was to simulate the “unlikely” failure of one of the main chutes during a return from orbit or a SpaceX Dragon capsule carrying crew or cargo. The video is an edited and shortened clip of the full test. In the video clip, seen in the embedded tweet below, a test sled of the same weight as a capsule can be seen being pulled out of the back of a cargo aircraft.
As the sled slides out of the back, the three large parachutes deploy and slow the descent. It’s interesting to watch the parachutes as the test sled nears the ground. The parachutes transition from elongated shapes that look like a high-altitude weather balloon to highly flared shapes that are more like a traditional parachute.
The assumption is with the Mark 3 parachute system now surpassing the ten test mark that Elon Musk had stated needed to happen before flight certification, that certification will be coming. Musk had said that at least ten successful deployments of the Mark 3 system would show that the behavior of the parachutes is consistent.
The Mark 3 parachutes use Zylon rather than nylon for the lines used in the chute, which is said to be about three times stronger than nylon. SpaceX also changed the stitching pattern to optimize load balance. Once flight status is granted, the new system will be fitted to Dragon capsules.