SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft aces critical launch escape test

Space.com | 1/19/2020 | Amy Thompson
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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX just took a giant leap forward in its quest to launch astronauts. The private spaceflight company intentionally destroyed one of its rockets on Sunday (Jan. 19) as part of a crucial test of its new Crew Dragon capsule's launch escape system.

Test - Abort - IFA - Test - Hurdle

The uncrewed test, known as an in-flight abort (IFA) test, is the last major hurdle SpaceX needed to clear before Crew Dragon can begin to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Originally scheduled to launch on Saturday (Jan. 18), the unpiloted crew capsule was grounded for 24 hours due to unfavorable weather conditions at both the launch site and the Crew Dragon recovery zone, the Atlantic Ocean just off the Florida coast.

The weather forecast on Sunday looked equally ominous, with the chances of favorable conditions at liftoff worsening. However, the weather cleared and SpaceX was able to lift off at 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT).

SpaceX - Falcon - Rocket - Crew - Dragon

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a major abort system test on Jan. 19, 2020 from Pad 39A of the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The Falcon 9 rocket used to launch Crew Dragon's abort test made its fourth flight for this mission. It did not survive, and that was expected.

SpaceX - Crew - Dragon - Abort - Engine

Here, SpaceX's Crew Dragon can be seen just after igniting its abort engine burn. Eight SuperDraco engines fired to rip the spacecraft free of its Falcon 9 rocket.

The Falcon 9 rocket, fully fueled for launch, appears to explode and break apart after Crew Dragon's abort maneuver. This was expected and SpaceX warned viewers to expect the rocket's fiery fate.

Crew - Dragon - Trunk - Crew - Capsule

Crew Dragon's "trunk" is seen here after separating from the crew capsule section. Crew Dragon was expected to reach a maximum altitude of about 25 miles...
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