December 13, 2019
SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft has been undergoing a series of tests before it's first manned mission could take place next year. The craft has been in development under a $2.6 billion contract with NASA's Commercial Crew Program. In a statement, NASA said the In-Flight Abort test demonstration for Crew Dragon is scheduled for January 4, 2020.
After completing static fire engine tests of the #CrewDragon spacecraft, @spacex is ready to put their launch escape system to the test during an in-flight abort demo.@NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Jan. 4 for the test from Launch Pad 39A: https://t.co/1KaK8I3w6J pic.twitter.com/5ysIXgqZLD— NASA's Kennedy Space Center (@NASAKennedy) December 10, 2019
During the In-Flight Abort test, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket will launch from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island in Florida, United States. The Falcon 9 will carry an unmanned Crew Dragon and as the craft experiences maximum dynamic pressure, at about 90 seconds after liftoff SpaceX will simulate a launch emergency. During this time, Crew Dragon will fire its eight SuperDraco abort engines to escape, fly away from the rocket while its in motion. This test aims to demonstrate Crew Dragon’s capability to safely separate from the Falcon 9 rocket in the event of an emergency while in-flight. Once unattached from the Falcon 9 rocket Crew Dragon will thrust away, deploying it's four integrated parachutes, then landing in a controlled splashdown into the Atlantic Ocean. NASA officials said in a statement:
"As part of the test, SpaceX will configure Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape shortly after liftoff and demonstrate Crew Dragon's capability to safely separate from the Falcon 9 rocket in the unlikely event of an in-flight emergency. The demonstration also will provide valuable data toward NASA certifying SpaceX's crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station."
Crew Dragon a top Falcon 9. March 2, 2019. Source: SpaceX
The Crew Dragon craft successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) during the Demo-1 mission, on March 2, 2019. It become the first American spacecraft in history to autonomously dock with the ISS on it's first demonstration flight. This is a huge achievement for SpaceX because it demonstrated Crew Dragon could one day successfully transport astronauts to the space station. NASA Administrator said a few months ago, "We are getting very close, and we're very confident that, in the first part of next year, we will be ready to launch American astronauts on American rockets."
The In-Flight Abort test is one of the final major tests for SpaceX before NASA astronauts will fly aboard the craft for the first time on the company's Demo-2 mission. NASA and SpaceX have previously stated that commercial crew development is the highest priority and have plans to launch astronauts from American soil to the International Space Station as early as next year. If everything goes according to plan, NASA and SpaceX could soon ignite the excitement of manned rocket missions to space for a whole new generation!