Published: Sun, January 19, 2020
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Crew Dragon Launch Escape Test

Crew Dragon Launch Escape Test

SpaceX's planned test of the emergency abort system is one of the final steps remaining before the company will be accredited to fly NASA astronauts from U.S. soil to the International Space Station (ISS).

But finding the right weather conditions could be a roadblock this weekend.

SpaceX raises the Crew Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket vertically at the 39A launch pad. Parachutes will send, and Crew Dragon will splashdown in the Atlantic sea, where recuperation pontoons will cull it from the freezing waters. They are now targeting Sunday, January 19 from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The astronauts will experience a vital in-flight test and the emergency escape of the space ship on Saturday.

One of the last major steps before SpaceX flies its Crew Dragon craft with real NASA astronauts onboard is an "in-flight abort test". About 84 second into launch, the rocket's engines will suddenly stop firing, simulating an emergency situation.

Only a minute and a half after launch, the Falcon 9 will kill its engines and the Crew Dragon will fire its SuperDraco engines to separate from the rocket.

Bad weather usually only delays rocket launch if it impairs the rocket's path. SpaceX also triggered the start-up exhaust system of the Dragon spacecraft to trigger at this stage automatically, which removes the crew spacecraft from the Falcon and moves it away from the rocket very quickly to shield the potential passers-by.

That means weather officials will be scanning for issues in a much bigger area, and so far things haven't lined up.

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SpaceX may encounter the opposite problem on Sunday.

This mission will hit the last milestone before SpaceX can launch NASA astronauts to the International Space Station this year.

SpaceX has another time window for this test mission on Monday morning. To access the space station, NASA now relies on Russian Federation. SpaceX was allocated $ 2.6 billion, and Boeing received $ 4.2 billion in 2014 for astronauts flying until 2017.

NASA has not managed to transfer astronauts on its spaceships because July 2011, when its distance shuttle finished its final flight. In December, however, SpaceX completed its tenth consecutive successful parachute test, which is required by NASA before astronauts can fly.

The US's attempts to revive spaceflight has experienced many years of development and delays. The company launched its first Crew Dragon mission, an unpiloted test flight to the station, in March 2019.

"We requested from (the military), if something goes awry, such as a pad abort or an ascent abort - which is what we're talking about with this In-Flight Abort Test - then they typically would go out and deploy their teams and provide for rescuing the crew, picking them up", said Ted Mosteller, NASA's commercial crew launch and landing lead, in an interview.

In such a scenario, even if the company never foresaw that an emergency stop would be required, SpaceX would "want to understand where (astronauts) could land" and we would also look at this weather, "said Reed".

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