SpaceX to Test DragonFly in Texas

Dragon with integrated trunk. (Credit: SpaceX)
Dragon with integrated trunk. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX would test a propulsive landing system for its Dragon spacecraft at its test site in McGregor, Texas, under an experimental permit the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed granting the company.

The agency has issued a draft environmental assessment for testing the DragonFly reusable launch vehicle (RLV) at the Texas site where SpaceX tests its Merlin D engines.

Under the proposed experimental permit, the company would conduct up to 30 tests of the RLV to develop techniques that will allow a Dragon spacecraft to touch down on land rather than splashing down in the ocean as they do currently.

The DragonFly RLV consists of a Dragon capsule with a integrated trunk that is 17 feet high and 13 feet across at the base. The vehicle would use a maximum of 400 gallons of propellant, which would consist of nitrogen tetroxide (NTO) and monomethylhydrazine (MMH).

The table below shows SpaceX’s plan for flight testing the DragonFly RLV.

Proposed Annual Operations of DragonFly RLV
Operation
Type
DescriptionAnnual Operations
Propulsion AssistDrop the RLV from a helicopter from up to 10,000 ft, deploy parachutes and land with SuperDraco engines; engines would five for 5 seconds2
Full Propulsive LandingDrop the RLV from a helicopter from up to 10,000 ft and land only with SuperDraco engines (no parachute); engines would five for 5 seconds2
Propulsive Assist HoppingRLV takes off from launch pad and lands with parachutes; engines would fire for 25 seconds8
Full Propulsive HoppingRLV takes off from launch pad, hovers, and lands propulsive (no parachute); engines would fire for 25 seconds18
Annual Operations30