Today's SpaceX Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort (IFA) test was postponed due to bad weather conditions at sea where the spacecraft is going to land. This vital IFA test has been rescheduled for tomorrow, Sunday January 19. A Falcon 9 rocket will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at Florida's NASA Kennedy Space Center, within a 6 hour launch window beginning at 8:00 a.m. EST and ending at around 2:00 p.m. EST.
According to the United States Air Force's 45th Weather Squadron, tomorrow's weather looks equally unstable. The probability of bad weather further postponing the launch are between 40% and 60%. A backup launch date for conducting this important mission is Monday, January 20 but the forecast predicts an increase of bad weather between 50% and 70%. So, SpaceX and NASA opted to conduct the mission on Sunday. SpaceX Announced:
"Standing down from today's in-flight Crew Dragon launch escape test due to sustained winds and rough seas in the recovery area, Now targeting Sunday, January 19, with a six-hour test window opening at 8:00 a.m. EST, 13:00 UTC."
Standing down from today’s in-flight Crew Dragon launch escape test attempt due to sustained winds and rough seas in the recovery area. Now targeting Sunday, January 19, with a six-hour test window opening at 8:00 a.m. EST, 13:00 UTC— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 18, 2020
Tomorrow you can watch the launch live in the video below starting at 7:40 a.m. EST.
Sunday, January 19.
•7:40 a.m. – NASA TV test coverage begins for the 8 a.m. liftoff
•9:30 a.m. – Post-test news conference at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
Victor Glover, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program
Mike Hopkins, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program
During this In-Flight Abort test, SpaceX aims to demonstrate to NASA that Crew Dragon's launch escape system is capable of saving astronauts during a dangerous situation, like if a Falcon 9 rocket malfunctions mid-flight. To simulate a dangerous scenario, SpaceX will intentionally destroy one of its rockets to prove the Dragon spacecraft's technology can escape away from danger by using its 8 SuperDraco engines. At approximately 1 minute 30 seconds after liftoff, an abort will be triggered. At that time, Crew Dragon's SuperDraco abort engines will ignite to pull the craft away from the Falcon 9 rocket. As soon as that escape countdown begins, Falcon 9's nine Merlin 1D engines will shutdown, the rocket will aerodynamically break, exploding into the Atlantic Ocean. Simultaneously, Dragon should be at a safe distance away conducting a parachute-assisted landing at sea. SpaceX officials wrote in a statement:
"This test, which does not have NASA astronauts onboard the spacecraft, is intended to demonstrate Crew Dragon's ability to reliably carry crew to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency on ascent."
The mission will not carry astronauts onboard. Instead, Crew Dragon will have two mannequins dressed like astronauts inside, they are "anthropomorphic test devices" -that will be equipped with high-tech sensors. The sensors will gather valuable data to see how future manned flights inside the spacecraft would be like.
Suited up! While crew members won't be aboard #CrewDragon during tomorrow's @SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test, astronauts Bob Behnken & Doug Hurley rehearsed what they'll experience during @Commercial_Crew missions. I'm excited we'll soon launch American astronauts from American soil! pic.twitter.com/Fr3CjGTm4s— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) January 17, 2020
Yesterday, all of NASA and SpaceX staff, including astronauts, practiced what to do during an In-Flight Abort situation. They will use tomorrow's IFA test to practice and learn beyond training with only what computerized simulations can provide.
This is the final major test the company will conduct before carrying astronauts onboard to the International Space Station (ISS). If it all goes well, we could see SpaceX's first crewed mission take place sometime this year.
Good luck to SpaceX and NASA!
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.