(ORDO NEWS) — SpaceX and NASA are investigating a parachute deployment issue seen on the last two capsule flights.
One of the four main parachutes inflated too slowly when four astronauts returned to Earth last November. The same problem occurred the week before last, when the Dragon capsule delivered science experiments to our planet from the International Space Station (ISS).
In both cases, the delayed parachute eventually opened and inflated—albeit more than a minute late—and the spacecraft splashed down safely off the coast of Florida.
Representatives from SpaceX and NASA said last Friday that they want to take a deeper look into the observed problem, especially before the launch of a new manned expedition, which should take place in one or two months.
Engineers are examining images and parachutes looking for reasons for delayed deployment mechanisms, with a “special focus on this critical spacecraft system,” said Steve Stich, NASA’s Private Space Transportation Program Manager.
The first commercial flight to the space station, which was bought by three businessmen and their accompanying former astronauts, is scheduled to take place from the Kennedy Space Center site, USA, on March 30. The next flight to deliver NASA astronauts to the ISS will take place on April 15.
Officials said parachute delay issues had previously been observed during development and previous payload missions and may represent a natural feature of this multiple parachute design.
Despite the delayed deployment of one of the four large parachutes, the capsules continued to move at normal speed. The parameters of the landing process also remained within the normal range, they added.
Only three out of four parachutes are required for a safe splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida, according to officials.
Similar parachutes are used in Boeing’s Starliner capsule and NASA’s Orion lunar spacecraft, neither of which has yet been flown with astronauts on board.
These parachutes also sometimes have a delay in deploying, so SpaceX’s findings may help improve the safety of these two spacecraft as well.
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