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Space dogs and Dragons: A brief history of reentry tech

How a flying Frenchman paved the way for space exploration

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Floating Dragons

Evidently, space agencies worldwide look set to keep really big parachute manufacturers busy for some time.4 The private sector is also doing its bit for massive canopy suppliers, with SpaceX's Dragon capsule needing three per launch and the services of a recovery barge.

Dragon spacecraft and chutes in the Pacific after splashdown on 31 May 2012. Pic: US Navy/NASA

Dragon spacecraft splashes down in the Pacific. Pic: US Navy/NASA

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft on the barge after being retrieved from the Pacific Ocean after splashdown, May 31, 2012. Photo: SpaceX

The Dragon after recovery. Photo: SpaceX

The next generation of manned capsules will similarly float elegantly from the heavens. Lockheed Martin's Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), aka "Orion"...

The Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle being assembled and tested at Lockheed Martin's Vertical Testing Facility in Colorado. Photo: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin's Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. Photo: Lockheed Martin

...boasts an Apollo-style three-'chute configuration...

 Parachute test of a dummy Orion capsule at U.S. Army Yuma Army Proving Grounds in southwestern Arizona. Photo: NASA

Parachute test of a dummy Orion capsule. Photo: NASA

...while Boeing's CST-100...

Artist's impression of the CST-100 in space. Pic: Boeing

Artist's impression of the CST-100 in space. Pic: Boeing

...has added airbags to the mix:

The CST-100 descends by parachute with airbags deployed. Pic: Boeing

The CST-100 braced for bouncedown. Pic: Boeing

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