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SpaceX Passes Yet Another Benchmark with Parachute System Test [VIDEO]

Jan 18, 2014 05:17 PM EST

NASA and SpaceX safety specialists teamed up to test the space technology's parachute system designed to intervene should the company's Dragon spacecraft run into trouble either on the launch pad or during ascent.

Engineers lifted the 12,000-pound test craft some 8,000 feet above sea level using a helicopter, which then flew it over the Pacific Ocean. Upon release, the vehicle's two drogue parachutes were deployed, followed by its three main parachutes.

After splashing down into the ocean not far from Morro Bay, Calif., the spacecraft was recovered and hauled back to shore.

"The parachute test is essential for the commercial crew effort because it helps us better understand how SpaceX's system performs as it safely returns crew," said Jon Cowart, NASA Partner Integration deputy manager working with SpaceX. "Like all of our partners, SpaceX continues to provide innovative solutions based on NASA's lessons learned that could make spaceflight safer."

The test was part of an optional milestone laid out by NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability initiative, of which SpaceX is a part. The company, founded by PayPal's Elon Musk, teamed up with the space agency in order to develop next-generation rockets and spacecraft designed to transport humans to low-Earth orbit, including to places like the International Space Station. SpaceX is currently on track to complete all of its 15 CCiCap milestones this year, with the latest test putting the company closer to testing its launch abort system.

"SpaceX is working diligently to make the Dragon spacecraft the safest vehicle ever flown," said Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX. "The parachute system is an integral part of Dragon's ability to provide a safe landing for nominal and abort conditions -- with this successful test we are well-positioned to execute a full end-to-end test of the launch escape system later this year."

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