Science

SpaceX crew capsule escape test a success as crowds watch rocket explode

SpaceX crew capsule escape test a success as crowds watch rocket explode”

The next step will be for SpaceX and NASA to closely review the data collected by the in-flight abort test, including information collected by two sensor-clad test dummies that rode aboard Crew Dragon Sunday.

Flying atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Crew Dragon lifted off at 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT) on a trajectory that mimicked the ascent that astronauts will follow on missions to the International Space Station. No one was aboard the Dragon crew capsule, just two mannequins.

The explosion itself wasn't so much the success as was what came just before it. It was then that the Crew Dragon was programmed to separate from the rocket as in the case of a real emergency.

Thanks to SpaceX and NASA, the abort test can be viewed live from 15:00 SAST (South African Standard Time) on Sunday 19 January 2020.

The Crew Dragon is created to bring astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA.

SpaceX has said it hopes to launch its first commercial flight for tourists in 2021.

"This is part of the game of us learning to work with a commercial provider", said NASA spokesman Joshua Santora. "Obviously I'm super fired up". "This is great. This is really great".

SpaceX has completed its last big test of its crew capsule before it launches astronauts for Nasa in the next few months. "Congratulations to SpaceX and the entire NASA team on this final major flight milestone that we needed to accomplish".

"This critical test puts us on the cusp of once again launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", Bridenstine said in a tweet.

The test launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida took place on Sunday, having been delayed a day by bad weather. The spacecraft then reoriented in preparation of reentering the Earth's atmosphere. Two sets of parachutes were deployed ahead of splashdown to control the descent.

"Dragon high altitude, supersonic abort test is a risky mission, as it's pushing the envelope in so many ways", Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, tweeted minutes before liftoff.

In the event that this in-flight abortion sequence happens with people on board, SpaceX plans to have the US military on standby to prioritize the safety of the crew over recovery of the capsule.

The agency is depending on private American spacecraft to change this situation - specifically, Crew Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule.

NASA will decide in the coming weeks whether to extend a crewed SpaceX test flight to the International Space Station, a move that could help alleviate a crew time crunch on the station. The Starliner went into the wrong orbit due to an problem with the capsule's internal clock.

A Dragon Capsule successfully flew to the space station last March without incident, but the capsule exploded a month later during a ground test.

There are now six people on the station, but with scheduled crew rotations and a previously planned reduction in Soyuz flights, there will only be three people - NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin - on the station starting in April. The agency's space shuttles were retired in 2011. Meanwhile, NASA has paid Russian Federation billions of dollars for American astronauts to ride aboard Russia's Soyuz capsules.



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