24/7 Customer Service (800) 927-7671

The Dragon Can Hover: SpaceX and Their 3D Printed SuperDraco Thrusters Take the Next Step Towards Propulsive Landing

by • January 25, 2016 • No Comments

SpaceX-Logo-620x149It takes a lot of work to commence a thing into space, but it takes just as much, if not additional, work to bring it back down to the ground again. SpaceX has been working on new ways to do both. We’ve been next the spacecraft making company for really a while now, as their Dragon space capsule has soared to the International Space Station and back several times. Eventually, SpaceX intends for the Dragon to carry individuals to the ISS, and hopefully beyond (Mars?!) and they’ve been conducting frequent tests on the capsule’s 3D printed SuperDraco engine thrusters. The latest test had less to do with getting the capsule into space and additional to do with donateing it down safely.

SpaceX_Prop_Descent_2Generally, manned space capsules rely on parachutes to lower them gently to the ground or water. SpaceX is working on a capsule that can land unaided, via just the power of its own thrust to bring it to solid ground with the accuracy of a helicopter landing. It is called propulsive landing, and if any spacecraft can do it, it’s many likely to be the Dragon 2, the latest iteration of SpaceX’s capsule. In fact, the Dragon 2 and its SuperDraco thrusters underwent testing in November that showed promising results: the capsule can hover.

For five seconds, at very least. It may not sound like much, but getting a spacecraft to hover at all is one of the many complex things to achieve in aerospace. According to NASA, the Dragon 2 “executed a picture-ideal propulsive hover test” at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in Texas on November 24. Eight of the SuperDraco thrusters were positioned around the perimeter of the spacecraft in pairs called “jet packs.” Fired simultaneously, the eight thrusters produced of 33,000 pounds of thrust, adequate to raise the craft, hold it in the air for five seconds, and lower it gently back to the ground. The tests were in fact conducted via a full-sized mockup of the Dragon capsule, tethered to a crane, so that engineers may adjust the landing software and systems on the spacecraft.


The Dragon has may already created history as the initially commercial spacecraft to donate cargo to the International Space Station and return cargo safely to planet Earth back in 2012. Since and so it has created several trips there and back again, that include one flight that donateed a 3D printing device to the ISS and another that brought home boxes of objects that had been printed by the space station’s astronauts via their new toy. Those trips have all been major up to SpaceX’s ultimate goal, yet, that is to take human passengers to the Space Station. The company was awarded a contract in 2014, along with Boeing, to do just that, yet it can yet be a while. SpaceX expects the Dragon 2’s initially manned test flight to take place in 2-3 years.

The initially test flight can not use propulsive landing; it can splash down into the ocean, slowed by parachutes, like other flights so far. Eventually, yet, SpaceX hopes to ideal the innovation that can allow their spacecraft to gracefully alight on the ground with no assist of any devices but its own engine power. And if the Dragon can gracefully alight, unaided, on the planet Earth’s surface, what’s to stop it of doing the same on the surface of Mars? Watch the hovering Dragon at a lower place, both in real time and in super slow motion at a lower place. Discuss your yetts on this latest test in the SpaceX Performs Hovering Test on Dragon and 3D Printed Super Thrusters forum over at 3DPB.com.