SpaceX completes development testing of SuperDraco engines
SpaceX has completeddesign testing of its SuperDraco engines, which, as a key element ofthe Crew Dragon's launch abort system (LAS), would be responsible forcarrying a crew of astronauts out of harms way in the event of alaunch failure.
Once complete, the CrewDragon spacecraft will represent one of the cornerstones of NASA'sdrive to establish a cost effective, independent access to low-Earth orbit (LEO). For it to become human-rated, NASA has set a stringentset of criteria that must be met. One such criteria is theintegration of a tried and tested LAS.
In the pursuit of thisgoal, SpaceX has decided to buck the trend, opting for an integratedsystem of four pairs of SuperDraco thrusters built in to the side ofthe crew capsule. That's a notably different approach to a keycompetitor in the Commercial Crew Development program – Boeing –which has opted for the traditional "rocket tower" design for the LAS system to protect crew riding aboard itsStarliner spacecraft.
In the development ofthe SuperDraco thrusters, SpaceX embraced advances in the sphere of3D printing technology. A key element of the rocket, known as thecombustion chamber, is fabricated using solely 3Dprinting, cutting down on cost, waste, and making the productionprocess more flexible in general.
During the recenttesting at the company's rocket development facility in Texas, thethrusters were placed on a test stand and fired 27 times, progressing through various thrustcycles. The tests come in the wake of last year's LAS pad test forthe Crew Dragon spacecraft, which served as proof that the design wasindeed feasible.
Moving forward, SpaceXwill continue to evaluate the performance of the thrusters, which itone day hopes to use during the descent phase, as a viablereplacement for the current parachute system.
Scroll down for a video of last year's LAS test.