NASA and SpaceX say lagging Dragon parachute may be normal phenomenon

WASHINGTON — NASA and SpaceX are learning why parachutes on two consecutive Dragon missions opened late however stated they don’t imagine the problem poses a security danger.

Officers stated at a Feb. 4 briefing that it’s doable that the delayed opening of certainly one of 4 parachutes on each the Crew-2 splashdown Nov. 8 and the CRS-24 cargo mission splashdown Jan. 24 could also be an artifact of the aerodynamics of these parachute methods, however they’ll look at the phenomenon in additional element earlier than the subsequent Dragon missions.

Steve Stich, NASA industrial crew program supervisor, stated that lagging parachute on the CRS-24 mission opened 63 seconds after the opposite three, in comparison with 75 seconds on the Crew-2 splashdown. He added lagging parachute openings had been seen on earlier cargo missions however didn’t determine particular ones. Invoice Gerstenmaier, vp of construct and flight reliability at SpaceX, later recommended these earlier incidents concerned a unique model of the parachutes than the Mark 3 parachutes used on the present Dragon spacecraft.

“This lagging parachute phenomenon is one thing we see with these giant ringsail parachutes,” Stich stated. “What we expect — and that is only a idea at this level — is that aerodynamically the three different canopies might type of shade, if you’ll, one of many different canopies, and it simply struggles to inflate at occasions.”

As a result of this occurred on two consecutive missions, he stated, NASA and SpaceX are taking additional time to examine the parachutes and look at different information from these missions. “Thus far we don’t see something that appears unusual in any of the imagery, or off-nominal.”

The delayed opening of the fourth parachute didn’t have an effect on the descent of both capsule. “In the event you seemed on the precise information, you wouldn’t even detect the actual fact these chutes that we noticed on Crew-2 and on CRS-24 have been truly late,” Gerstenmaier stated. “In the event you have a look at the descent information, it seems similar to a daily four-chute parachute return.”

He stated that, even when not absolutely inflated, the fourth parachute continues to be offering some drag. Dragon is designed to splash down safely if one parachute of 4 doesn’t open in any respect.

Gerstenmaier stated there’s been no latest design or manufacturing modifications which may clarify why the lagging parachute was seen on two consecutive missions. “This will likely be completely investigated,” he stated. “We’ll use this as one other information level and see if we will get smarter about how these methods function so we will ensure that, sure, this actually is a nominal operation of this four-chute system, or perhaps there’s one thing right here that’s occurring that’s completely different.”

Stich stated there was nothing to counsel there wanted to be a delay within the launch of the subsequent Crew Dragon mission, Crew-4, at present scheduled for April 15. The company and SpaceX anticipate to shut out the problem by the flight readiness evaluate for that mission in early April. Gerstenmaier stated the chute difficulty would even be closed out earlier than the launch of a Crew Dragon on the Ax-1 industrial mission to the station, scheduled for March 30.

Stich added that NASA didn’t think about the problem critical sufficient that it will have switched to Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner industrial crew automobile for the subsequent crew rotation mission had that spacecraft been licensed by now. SpaceX plans to share its parachute information with NASA and Boeing as each Starliner and Orion additionally use giant ringsail parachutes, however with completely different configurations.

Whereas the Crew-2 splashdown was broadcast reside, permitting everybody to see the lagging parachute, the CRS-24 splashdown was not broadcast and NASA has not launched any photos or video of its splashdown. Kathy Lueders, NASA affiliate administrator for area operations, stated the company isn’t broadcasting cargo mission splashdowns to save lots of the prices of deploying the property wanted for such protection.

Lueders, although, stated the company would return the sooner follow of holding post-splashdown media briefings. “These are the nation’s missions, and we need to just remember to’re understanding that we’re offering the information we’d like to have the ability to ensure that our nation understands what’s occurring on their missions.”

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