On Wednesday, SpaceX conducted tests of parachutes to help astronauts safely re-approach Earth.
The tests, which used a mass simulator dropped from a C-130 cargo aircraft above an Arizona desert, are a step toward SpaceX’s certification with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Four main parachutes deployed from the Crew Dragon spacecraft, which SpaceX hopes to use to shuttle astronauts to and from the International Space Station (in addition to the supplies the company currently transports).
With this landing method, the parachutes should gracefully land the Crew Dragon into the ocean for retrieval, but SpaceX hopes to land the astronauts on solid ground with its SuperDraco engines eventually.
Later tests, NASA says, will occur in increasingly realistic environments and will incorporate drogue chutes, which are smaller and elongated to provide initial slowing before the main parachutes deploy.