According to NASA and SpaceX, dragon’s parachute lag was not a problem

2022-05-15 0 By

NASA and SpaceX said they were working on a recurring problem with lagging parachutes on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule — a key function needed for spacecraft to return from orbit.However, the two spaceflight partners played down the seriousness of the problem, saying the chutes performed perfectly safely despite the behavior.Parachute problems have cropped up during the last two landings of SpaceX’s Dragon Spacecraft capsule.During each descent to Earth, one of the spacecraft’s four main parachutes inflated more slowly than the other three.The lagging parachute was clearly visible during a live broadcast of the November descent, during which the Dragon spacecraft carried four astronauts home from the International Space Station.Another landing in January — a cargo return from the International Space Station — was not broadcast live, but a Space News report showed that one of the Dragon’s parachutes was lagging there, too.Today, people from NASA and SpaceX held a press conference to discuss parachutes ahead of SpaceX’s next Dragon crew launch.NASA and SpaceX said they were reviewing the data to better understand the behavior.On the November landing, the fourth chute inflated 75 seconds longer than the other three, while on the January landing, the sluggish chute inflated 63 seconds longer.Still, NASA said the rate of descent of the vehicles was considered normal.NASA and SpaceX also said the Dragon would have landed smoothly even if the fourth parachute had not been inflated at all.”You can have a parachute completely lost and still be proven to land,” Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), which oversees The Dragon spacecraft, said at a news conference.While the Dragon Spaceship team plans to conduct a comprehensive review of the parachutes, they don’t expect to need to make any major changes to the spacecraft’s hardware or design.”This is more of a learning exercise on how we can improve our design and engineering understanding of parachute operation,” Bill Gerstenmaier, SpaceX’s vice president of construction and flight reliability, said in a press release.SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft is a key piece of NASA hardware used to maintain the International Space Station.The capsule is just one of two spacecraft currently capable of carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station.A similar version of the spacecraft is carrying cargo to the station.Despite the failed 2015 cargo mission, SpaceX has been safely shuttling Dragon spacecraft to and from the space station for years, with its first passengers aboard the vehicle in May 2020.In November, SpaceX successfully delivered a new four-person Crew, Crew-3, to the space station on dragon, just days after bringing home another Crew, Crew-2.During the creW-2’s night landing, viewers noticed that one of the four parachutes inflated more slowly than the others as the craft descended through the air.The slow parachutes eventually expanded before the Dragon splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico, and all four astronauts left the craft healthy.After the splash, NASA and SpaceX hinted that the behavior was normal.”These parachutes have shown this behavior,” Stich said at a news conference after the splash.In addition, he added that NASA looked at the data and thought they were within range of some of its tests.SpaceX also said it extensively reviewed video and data from the landing before launching Crew-3, but said such behavior was expected.The problem resurfaced during the recent return of a cargo version of the Dragon Spacecraft, a mission called CRS-24, which returned from the International Space Station on January 24.NASA did not provide a live broadcast of the landing, so for about a week the public was kept in the dark about the lagging parachutes.Kathy Lueders, NASA’s associate administrator for space operations, said at a news conference today that the space agency stopped broadcasting cargo landings live because of the cost, but the agency now plans to hold news conferences after future cargo missions.At a press conference today, NASA and SpaceX doubled down on claims they’ve seen this before.”This delayed parachute phenomenon is what we see with these large ring cell parachutes.We’ve actually seen it in other tests and other (cargo) flights, “Stich said.Officials believe three of the chutes may have aerodynamically “shielded” the other as it deployed, causing it to deploy more slowly.In addition to reviewing the data again to better understand the behavior, NASA and SpaceX said they plan to visit the supplier that supplies SpaceX’s parachutes and lay them out to see if anything seems amiss.They also plan to do an “inflation analysis” to see if all cargo landing parameters are within expectations.If all goes well, NASA will try to approve SpaceX for its next manned mission, CREW-4, which is targeted for launch on April 15.SpaceX also plans to deliver a crew of private astronauts to the International Space Station for Axiom in late March.As for the CreW-3 Dragon capsule currently docked with the International Space Station, SpaceX and NASA see no need to make any changes.The capsule, whose parachutes can’t really be modified in any case, will take its four crew members home this spring.Gerstenmaier declined to answer when asked if the Manned Dragon would be able to land with two parachutes.Instead, he points out that in testing parachutes, SpaceX simulated the failure of one parachute and found that three others could take responsibility.In fact, he argues, the failed parachute helped ensure that the other three did inflate, noting — “We don’t see this as an aggravating condition.In fact, it may be a self-correcting condition.”