SpaceX preps upgraded Crew Dragon for static-fire test next week
SpaceX is continuing to test out the key components of a vehicle built to return human spaceflight to US soil, with an upgraded launch escape system for its Crew Dragon capsule the latest to be put through its paces.
Great progress was being made with SpaceX's Crew Dragon program early this year, with the spacecraft built to carry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station ticking off number of key milestones. It lifted off towards the orbiting laboratory in early March, docked with it a day later and then safely returned to Earth with its test dummy passenger intact.
A static-fire test, where the engines are engaged with the spacecraft tethered to the ground, followed in April, but saw a leaky component give rise to a disastrous launchpad explosion. The purpose of this exercise was to test out the craft's launch escape system, which is designed to blast astronauts clear of the launchpad in case of emergency. Its failure led SpaceX back to the drawing board to look over the design.
In early September, SpaceX conducted a successful static-fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket being prepped to lift the Crew Dragon into space on its first manned mission. Now it appears to have solved the design flaws of the launch escape system, sharing a video of it in action on Twitter.
Test of Crew Dragon’s upgraded launch escape system ahead of static fire and in-flight abort tests – altogether we are conducting hundreds of tests to verify the system's advanced capabilities to carry astronauts to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency pic.twitter.com/a4FucMh85l— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 24, 2019
A proper static-fire test of the upgraded Crew Dragon capsule could take place as early as next weekend, as reported by CNBC. The broadcaster says that SpaceX is preparing for a November 2 static-fire test, looking to demonstrate that it has addressed the earlier issues with the spacecraft that led to its explosion.
The timeline around the first manned flights for the Crew Dragon remains unclear.