The world's largest parafoil parachute was test-flown last month as part of NASA's X-38 lifting body prototype project, .

The project could lead to the development of four operational crew return vehicles (CRVs) for the International Space Station. They are designed to return crews in an emergency.

The parafoil, tested over Arizona, has a span of 43m (140ft) and a surface area of 696m² (7,500ft²). The system carried an 8,160kg (18,000lb) pallet, simulating the X-38, which was dropped from a Lockheed Martin C-130 at an altitude of 6,555m, landing safely 11min later.

Prototypes of the X-38 have been drop-tested, using smaller parafoils. A spaceflight test re-entry and landing flight of a CRV from the Space Shuttle is planned for 2002.

Source: Flight International