Published: Mon, January 20, 2020
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

SpaceX launches, destroys rocket in astronaut escape test

SpaceX launches, destroys rocket in astronaut escape test

SpaceX will launch it's Crew Dragon spacecraft on Sunday during its critical abort test from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

If Musk is right, when the Crew Dragon takes astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the ISS, it will be the first time since the 2011 decommissioning of the Space Shuttle program, that United States citizens have launched into space from the US.

The Falcon 9 rocket used on this morning's flight itself is crew-rated.

- A SpaceX launch has ended in an abort, dropping its crew capsule into the ocean and leaving its rocket in pieces - exactly to plan.

Elon Musk's SpaceX will try again on Sunday to destroy one of its own rockets in a test of a crucial emergency abort system, a day after bad weather forced the company to delay its final milestone test before flying NASA astronauts from US soil. The capsule splashed down around 10 minutes after launch in the Atlantic Ocean, where a recovery team was waiting.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon Capsule can carry 7 astronauts. The Falcon 9 rocket test was meant to demonstrate the space firms ability to carry astronauts to safety in the event of a catastrophic failure during its ascent into the higher atmosphere. If the upcoming mission by SpaceX is successful, the agency will need to rely less on other countries, and could also save money on future launches.

SpaceX said the capsule is created to escape from danger at any point during the rocket's journey to the upper atmosphere, not just in the first few minutes.

"This was a test, but it looked lovely and now the real work begins", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said.

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Mr Hurley said it was "pretty neat to see" the capsule aboard the recovery ship within two hours.

It will mark NASA's first human spaceflight mission in almost a decade and the first-ever crewed mission for SpaceX in its 18-year history.

In the event that this in-flight abortion sequence happens with people on board, SpaceX plans to have the USA military on standby to prioritize the safety of the crew over recovery of the capsule. He described himself as "super fired-up" about the outcome of the test.

He added that the first manned flight of the capsule will probably occur "in the second quarter", an event that would mark the first time in nine years that Americans have gone into space aboard an American rocket, rather than a Russian one. "It went as well as one could possibly expect and is a reflection of the dedication and hard work by the SpaceX and NASA teams". The previous month, only two of the Starliner's three parachutes deployed during a launch abort test.

But Nasa Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the "go for launch" for Hurley and Behnken might depend on how long the agency wanted the men to stay on the space station.

NASA's commercial crew program manager, Kathy Lueders, called it the "last open milestone" before NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken are allowed to board a SpaceX rocket bound for the International Space Station (ISS).

Though the U.S. space agency paid the companies to develop their vehicles, Boeing's Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon are privately owned and operated.

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