Crew Dragon

Weather favorable for SpaceX Crew Dragon's critical In-Flight Abort Test this Saturday

Weather favorable for SpaceX Crew Dragon's critical In-Flight Abort Test this Saturday

Featured Image Credit: Mack Crawford/NASASpaceflight

SpaceX's goal is to safely launch astronauts from American soil to the International Space Station (ISS). The company developed Crew Dragon under a $2.6 billion contract with NASA's Commercial Crew Program. The spacecraft can carry up to seven passengers and attaches atop of their Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX is ready to conduct a critical In-Flight Abort test on the Crew Dragon craft this weekend, before launching NASA astronauts aboard for the first time this year.

The In-Flight Abort (IFA) test, is the final most important test that aims to show how Crew Dragon's launch escape system works.
SpaceX will demonstrate to NASA that the spacecraft's technology can be capable of keeping astronauts safe if there is a mid-air emergency, like if their Falcon 9 rocket malfunctions after liftoff. The test will take place at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A in Florida. 

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict a 90% chance of favorable weather for the unmanned IFA test scheduled for Saturday morning, January 18 at 8:00 a.m. EST. -the start of a 4 hour test window.

NASA Announced:

"SpaceX's uncrewed in-flight abort test is targeted for 8am ET on Jan. 18. This test will show that the Crew Dragon can protect astronauts even in the unlikely event of an emergency during launch. Currently, weather is 90% GO for the demonstration."




Both, NASA and SpaceX will provide live coverage of the upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for the SpaceX Crew Dragon launch escape demonstration mission.

Friday, January 17. 1:00 p.m. EST.

•Pre-test briefing at Kennedy, with the following representatives:

Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
Benji Reed, director, Crew Mission Management, SpaceX
Mike McAleenan, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron

Saturday, January 18.

•7:45 a.m. EST – NASA TV test coverage begins for the 8:00 a.m. liftoff. 

•9:30 a.m. EST – Post-test news conference at Kennedy Space Center
with the following representatives:

Jim Bridenstine, administrator, NASA
SpaceX representative
Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
Victor Glover, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program
Mike Hopkins, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program


During the unmanned In-Flight Abort test, everything will mimic how a real voyage to the space station would be like -except that they will purposely cause an explosion to see if Crew Dragon's launch escape system passes the safety test. To simulate a dangerous scenario engineers have configured Dragon to intentionally escape before a time-lapse of 1 minute 30 seconds, quick, right after liftoff. As soon as the escape countdown begins, the Falcon 9 rocket's nine Merlin 1D engines will shut down, as Dragon begins to ignite. Dragon will fire its 8 SuperDraco abort engines to escape from danger while in flight.

At approximately 88 to 90 seconds after liftoff, Dragon will attempt the escape, that's the time when the spacecraft will experience maximum aerodynamic pressure, also known as "Max Q." Everything is expected to occur quickly, SuperDraco engines can move Dragon half a mile in only 7.5 seconds, they will burn fuel until completion then shutdown. That's the moment when both crafts will separate from each other. Watch Video Below:

NASA explained:
The "spacecraft will passively coast to apogee, the highest point in its arc. Near apogee, Crew Dragon’s trunk will separate and the smaller Draco thrusters will re-orient the spacecraft for reentry and parachute deploy."

Crew Dragon will deploy its parachutes to splashdown into the Atlantic Ocean. To meet NASA’s Commercial Crew Program safety requirements SpaceX's Crew Dragon should splashdown intact, with no damage nor leaks inside because the launch escape system should be able to protect astronauts in an event of a dangerous rocket failure. 

Following Crew Dragon’s separation, Falcon 9 is expected to aerodynamically break up and explode offshore over the ocean. NASA explained that: 

The Falcon 9 rocket's "expected breakup time will vary based upon a number of factors, including day of launch winds and expected minor variations in vehicle attitudes and positions, but could occur shortly after separation or later upon reentry from the upper atmosphere." 

Falcon 9 debris will be cleaned immediately after breakup by SpaceX recovery teams working in coordination with U.S Air Force Detachment-3 personnel.

Good luck to SpaceX and NASA!

About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn Arevalo

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.

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