In the lead up to its first crewed flight, SpaceX just encountered an unfortunate hiccup.
A parachute for its capsule failed on Tuesday as a helicopter pilot was forced to drop the test vehicle earlier than planned due to instability and danger to the pilot.
The reason behind the problem is not yet clear, but it may mean a delay in the human-crewed Crew Dragon launch, which was scheduled for June.
The parachutes are not to blame
The test machine was destroyed as it hadn't made its "target conditions," which is when the parachutes would be armed, said a SpaceX spokesperson to Parabolic Arc.
The cause of the problem isn't yet clear, but according to SpaceX, it's nothing to do with the parachutes.
Even though the test did not go as planned, the helicopter landed safely and the pilot was unscathed, leading to no injuries from the incident. In a short statement, SpaceX mentioned that the pilot the emergency release "out of an abundance of caution" when the test article became unstable. The parachutes were not armed because the vehicle "was not yet at target conditions."
SpaceX continued on a positive note "NASA and SpaceX are working together to determine the testing plan going forward in advance of Crew Dragon’s second demonstration flight."
SpaceX said that one of the final parachute tests for its Crew Dragon spacecraft went awry, a problem it blamed on the test setup and not a flaw with the parachutes themselves. https://t.co/u0LtmLkUu6 pic.twitter.com/iJgKrE3XuS— SpaceNews (@SpaceNews_Inc) March 25, 2020
As it stands, the original crewed demo mission to send the spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) is still planned for mid- to late-May, however, according to sources speaking to Parabolic Arc, the failure would most likely mean a delay of the flight until June.
Moreover, given the current major slow down in the workforce around the world due to COVID-19, further delays may be a part of the equation.