Bezos said earlier this month that Blue Origin will test crew capsule parachute failure before the end of June.
“A parachute failure is a credible scenario in even the most carefully designed recovery system, so a robust vehicle needs to accommodate that possibility,” Bezos wrote in the Blue Origin email newsletter sent out today. “We’re about to do that test.”
Blue Origin will livestream the event on its website. The flight will be the fourth flight with the same hardware, but the first to test a scenario where one parachute fails. If the test is successful, it could mean big news for Bezos’ plans to improve safety on future passenger flights.
The capsule is designed with a two-stage crushable structure, absorbing the impact upon landing. Special seats also absorb some of the impact on the passengers themselves.
“As an added measure of redundancy, the crew capsule is equipped with a ‘retro rocket’ propulsive system that activates just a few feet above the ground to lower the velocity to approximately 3 ft/sec at touchdown,” Bezos said. “This final maneuver causes the dust cloud you can see when the crew capsule lands.”
Bezos was inspired to undertake the mission by the Apollo 15 incident in 1971. A similar failure occurred where one of the capsule’s three parachutes failed to deploy. A nearby U.S. warship had to radio the crew to tell them to brace for a hard impact on the water surface.