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NASA and SpaceX are preparing to conduct the first crewed flight launched from American soil since 2011. The first mission, Demo-2, will return human spaceflight capabilities to the United States. NASA funded SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft development under Commercial Crew Program contract. NASA Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be the first to fly aboard Crew Dragon, which will liftoff atop a Falcon 9 rocket from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA astronauts practiced an emergency escape drill at the launch pad ahead of SpaceX Dragon's first crewed flight to the International Space Station. Today (April 7), the agency shared:
"On April 3, NASA and SpaceX conducted an emergency egress exercise at Launch Complex 39A at NASA Kennedy. This demonstration was completed to ensure the crew & support teams can quickly evacuate from the launch pad in the unlikely event of an emergency."
Astronauts Behnken and Hurley are currently training for the Demo-2 mission, despite of the Coronavirus pandemic that is ongoing worldwide. NASA stated its limiting contact with astronauts and only allows "mission-essential" personnel at work, in order to help reduce the chances of spreading the COVID-19 disease. SpaceX will return human spaceflight capabilities to the United States during a time when the world truly needs some inspiration. The Demo-2 mission is scheduled for launch no earlier than May this year, the agency said in a press release, "It also is the final flight test for the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft system to be certified for regular flights to the station with crew onboard."
On April 3, @NASA and @SpaceX conducted an emergency egress exercise at Launch Complex 39A at @NASAKennedy.— NASA Commercial Crew (@Commercial_Crew) April 7, 2020
This demonstration was completed to ensure the crew & support teams can quickly evacuate from the launch pad in the unlikely event of an emergency: https://t.co/5xYN51WHGp pic.twitter.com/75LTRoyMKA
Astronauts, alongside NASA and SpaceX personnel, conducted an emergency egress exercise. On Friday, "The end-to-end demonstration is the latest in a series of similar exercises to ensure the crew and support teams can quickly evacuate from the launch pad in the unlikely event of an emergency prior to liftoff," NASA wrote in a statement. Everyone must prepare for any potential accident, like an explosion before liftoff. During Friday's exercise, astronauts and staff practiced the escape drill to leave the 265-foot-level launch tower at Pad 39A, as quickly as possible. First, astronauts escape the Dragon spacecraft in less than 90 seconds. They run out and pass through a fire suppression system that sprays water, on the crew access tower's arm. Then, everyone loads into baskets on a zipline-like wire, to slide-down the tower as quickly as possible. Each basket can carry three individuals to safety. "The primary objective was to demonstrate the teams’ ability to safely evacuate crew members from the launch pad during an emergency situation."
The demonstration exercise also included a practice scenario simulating astronaut injuries, mission personnel carried astronauts into the baskets and reviewed escape and first-aid operations. NASA Stated:
"Teams rehearsed locating injured personnel on the 265-foot-level of the launch tower, loading them into the pad’s slidewire baskets and safely descending the tower, then successfully loading the injured participants into Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles staged at the pad perimeter."
The MRAP vehicle, is an armored car that waits for the astronauts on the ground to transport them to safety. MRAP's armor is so thick that each door weighs 600 pounds. Besides being bullet proof it is also explosion-resistant and can rescue astronauts at the launch pad during a fire.
The entire escape operation is conducted in less than four minutes. NASA and SpaceX teams completed the series of exercises successfully.
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.