SpaceX and NASA tested the emergency abort system of the manned SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft today. Everything went as planned.
SpaceX is working to bring astronauts into space with the Crew Dragon Spacecraft. Today at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft did a test to simulate an emergency abort from the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 40.
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Minutes ago the Crew Dragon has splashed down just offshore from Cap Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Crew Dragon was flying down to the water with three parachutes. Now the SpaceX engineers will evaluate the recorded data and prepare for the next test. In the next month a in-flight abort test will be performed.
The ability to escape from a launch or pad emergency and safely carry the crew out of harm's way is a crucial element for NASA's next generation of crew spacecraft. SpaceX will perform the test under its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement with NASA, and will use the data gathered during the development flight as it continues on the path to certification.
The Crew Dragon and trunk stand together about 20 feet tall. It can fly on the power of 8 SuperDraco engines. The test will not have crew members aboard the spacecraft, but will simulate an emergency escape from the launch pad in the unlikely case of booster failing at liftoff or other scenario that would threaten astronauts inside the spacecraft.
The SuperDracos, each producing 15,000 pounds of thrust, are expected to lift the spacecraft about 5,000 feet above the launch pad before it parachutes into the Atlantic Ocean about a mile offshore. The whole test will take about a minute and a half. Recovery teams will retrieve the Crew Dragon from the ocean at the end of the test.
“This is what SpaceX was basically founded for, human spaceflight,” said Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of Mission Assurance with SpaceX. “The pad abort is going to show that we've developed a revolutionary system for the safety of the astronauts, and this test is going to show how it works. It's our first big test on the Crew Dragon.”
The test is one of the milestones NASA's Commercial Crew Program and SpaceX agreed to as part of a developmental effort for a privately owned and operated crew transportation system that can safely and economically carry crews to and from low-Earth orbit. SpaceX will perform the test under its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement but will use the data gathered during the development flight as it continues on the path to certification.
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SpaceX and Boeing are working under separate Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts to complete the development of their spacecraft and flight systems ahead of flight tests in 2017 to certify their use in operational flights to the International Space Station.