A new space vehicle to carry crews to the International Space Station moved closer to realization yesterday when Transformational Space Corporation LLC tested its parachute landing system by dropping a replica into the Pacific Ocean. For a complete report on t/Space, and the technology that they're developing, click here.
NASA chose Transformational Space Corp. ("t/Space") in September 2004, along with seven other aerospace companies, to develop concepts for the next generation of NASA vehicles. t/Space won a $6 million contract with a promise to go beyond paper design studies to actual hardware prototyping.
Today's test focused on a proposed Crew Transfer Vehicle (CXV) to ferry astronauts to the Space Station at lower cost and risk than the Space Shuttle. The Drop Test Article (DTA) representing the CXV was full size (14.75 feet long by 14 feet diameter) and full weight at 8,100 lbs.
A Sikorsky S-61 helicopter carried the DTA three miles offshore from Crescent City and released it from 9,600 feet. The triple-parachute descent system splashed down six minutes later. After hitting the Pacific Ocean at 14 miles per hour, divers deployed from the recovery ship Two Sisters attached a line for the helicopter to return the DTA to shore.
Former astronaut Jim Voss, t/Space vice president for space exploration systems said, "We are pleased with the overall success of this engineering test and that we understand why one of the three parachutes opened only partially. Early testing will allow us to identify problems quickly and fix them before changes become expensive."
NASA plans a competition this fall to select a new vehicle to carry crew to the Space Station. t/Space will offer its four-person CXV. NASA also is moving forward with a separate effort to create a new Crew Exploration Vehicle for Moon and Mars Exploration.