Space Exploration Technologies’ (SpaceX) Dragon spacecraft has successfully completed a high-altitude drop test.

It marks the last in a series of tests to validate parachute deployment systems and recovery operations before the craft’s first launch.

During the test, an Erikson S-64F air-crane helicopter dropped a test article of the Dragon spacecraft from a height of 14,000ft off the coast of Morro Bay, California, US.

In a timed sequence, dual redundant drogue parachutes were deployed to stabilise and gently slow the craft before three main parachutes, 116ft in diameter, further slowed the craft for landing.

SpaceX CEO and CTO Elon Musk said by holding the Dragon to stringent standards for manned missions from the start, tests like this will ensure quality and reliability over the long term.

The Dragon and its Falcon 9 launch vehicle have been selected by Nasa to deliver supplies to and from the International Space Station from 2011.

The Dragon spacecraft can return as much as 2,500kg of cargo from the space station back to Earth.

SpaceX VP of structures Chris Thompson said that data gathered during the drop test would be invaluable for the upcoming demonstration flight of the first operational Dragon spacecraft.