CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX’s In-Flight Abort Test was a success. The test demonstrated the Crew Dragon’s ability to keep astronauts safe in the event of a launch emergency.
The entire test took about 10 minutes from launch to splashdown. The flight brings NASA closer to its first manned launch to the International Space Station under the commercial crew program as early as this spring.
NASA and SpaceX kept a close eye on the weather as water conditions weren’t safe for the test to commence Saturday. Officials decided to reschedule the test for Sunday.
At 10:30 a.m., a SpaceX Falcon 9 roared off Launch Pad 9A at the Kennedy Space Center. The launch was designed to fail. It demonstrated the Crew Dragon’s ability to get away from the rocket used for the In-Flight Abort test and carry a crew to safety had there been one on board.
Monitors at the press site showed the moment that the Falcon 9 broke apart and ignited into flames. Once the Crew Dragon was a safe distance away, it deployed its parachutes and splashed down off the coast.
The demonstration sets the stage for SpaceX’s first crewed flight test to the ISS with NASA astronauts Dough Hurley and Bob Behnken.
SpaceX and NASA still need to analyze the data from the mission before any crewed flight test happens.
In preparation for the launch, the director of Crew Mission Management for SpaceX, Benji Reed, said, "We’re getting ready to go; we’re getting ready to fly.”
In the test, a Falcon 9 rocket followed a trajectory to mimic a real Crew Dragon mission to ISS. About 84 seconds into launch, teams intentionally triggered a launch escape to demonstrate Crew Dragon’s capability to safely separate from the Falcon 9 rocket.
It’s a major step toward launching astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time since the retirement of the shuttle program. SpaceX and Boeing are working toward ferrying astronauts to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program.
“We are purposely failing a launch vehicle to make sure that our abort system that will be flying for our crews works,” said Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew program manager.
Friday morning, Behnken and Hurley suited up for a pre-launch crew operations “dry rehearsal.” They weren’t on the in-flight test, but will fly on the first manned Crew Dragon mission later this year. Flight test dummies were aboard Sunday’s test.
Prior to launch, SpaceX and NASA teams practiced launch day operations, including final spacecraft inspections and a side hatch closeout.
Last weekend, SpaceX successfully completed a static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket that will be used for the in-flight demonstration of the Crew Dragon’s launch escape system.
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