SpaceX destroys rocket in successful Crew Dragon inflight abort test
SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 booster have completed an inflight launch escape demonstration. On January 19, 2020, at 10:30 am EST, the rocket and the unmanned capsule lifted off from Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the eight-minute final flight test before being validated to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
Today's launch came after a 26-hour delay due to heavy seas in the recovery area in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast. The purpose of the brief mission was to deliberately initiate a launch emergency and demonstrate the ability of the Crew Dragon's onboard systems to automatically respond and return safely to Earth.
According to NASA, one minute and 30 seconds minutes into the flight the Falcon 9 was passing through the point known as Max Q – the moment when the booster goes through its peak mechanical stress. It was then that the Crew Dragon was programmed to separate from the rocket as in the case of a real emergency.
The spacecraft carried out the separation and then the firing of its Draco engines to carry it to a safe altitude. Meanwhile, the Falcon 9 was allowed to destroy itself in the wake of the mission abort. The Crew Dragon capsule then separated from its service module and deployed its parachutes to slow down and descend to a splashdown at 10:38 am, where it awaited recovery by the US Air Force 45th Operations Group's Detachment-3 and the SpaceX recovery team for return to Cape Canaveral.
Though the mission was unmanned, two test dummies occupied seats in the capsule, where instruments recorded the stresses placed on them by the abort procedure and landing. NASA and SpaceX will now study the flight telemetry and instrument data for the run-up to the Demo-2 mission, which will carry NASA astronauts to the ISS.
"The past few days have been an incredible experience for us," says astronaut Doug Hurley. "We started with a full dress rehearsal of what Bob and I will do for our mission. Today, we watched the demonstration of a system that we hope to never use but can save lives if we ever do. It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point, and we can’t wait to take a ride to the space station soon."
A repeat of the live webcast of the launch can be viewed below.