A newly released video shows SpaceX’s Dragon 2 capsule pulling off a valuable trick: firing its thrusters to hover above a landing pad.
The Nov. 24 test was part of Project DragonFly, the California-based company’s effort to develop a Dragon that can touch down on land rather than splashing down in the ocean. The trick is likely to come into play when future Dragons come back from the International Space Station — or land on Mars.
This test was conducted at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in Texas. The Dragon was suspended from a tether, and then engineers fired up its eight SuperDraco thrusters for five seconds. SpaceX said the firing generated about 33,000 pounds of thrust before the craft was returned to its resting position.
The thrusters could also be used to power the Dragon to safety if something goes wrong during a launch. That was the point of a pad abort test that SpaceX conducted in Florida last May. Such a system will be essential for Dragon flights that carry astronauts into orbit. Crewed flights could begin as early as next year under the terms of a multibillion-dollar development deal with NASA.
Hat tip to Alex Knapp at Forbes.com.