Eight SuperDraco thrusters, positioned around the perimeter of the vehicle in pairs called “jet packs”, fired up simultaneously to raise the Crew Dragon spacecraft for a five-second hover, generating approximately 33,000 lbs of thrust before returning the vehicle to its resting position, at the company’s test facility in McGregor, Texas.
This test was the second of a two-part milestone under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The first test—a short firing of the engines intended to verify a healthy propulsion system—was completed November 22, and the longer burn two-days later demonstrated vehicle control while hovering.
SpaceX envisions returning people to Earth from space on the power of thrust instead of beneath parachutes. Working with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX is in the early phases of analysis.
Propulsive landing will not be used initially for missions with NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. The Crew Dragon will splash down safely in the ocean under parachutes as its passengers return from the space station.