After almost a decade, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program aims launch astronauts from the United States on American-made spacecraft. NASA awarded SpaceX a contract to develop Crew Dragon, a spacecraft that will ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). SpaceX is preparing to launch their first manned mission in history this year!
Engineers are in the final phase of testing their updated version of Crew Dragon. During this phase, SpaceX will conduct a vital In-Flight Abort (IFA) test mission, that will test Dragon’s launch escape system. This test aims to demonstrate to NASA that the Dragon spacecraft can be capable of saving astronauts if there is a mid-air emergency, like if their Falcon 9 rocket malfunctions while ‘in-flight.’ To earn a human-rating certificate they must pass the IFA test before putting any astronauts aboard.
Ahead of Dragon’s In-Flight Abort demonstration mission, they conducted a static-fire test on a previously flown Falcon 9 rocket. The 9 Merlin 1D rocket engines roared to life today, January 11 at 10:10 a.m. EST. The test was brief, lasted for a few seconds as the Merlin engines powered up to full throttle to produce 1.7 million pounds of thrust while the rocket was grounded with hold-down clamps that kept it on launch Pad 39A, at the Kennedy Space Center. Quickly, all 9 engines were shut down. SpaceX announced:
“Static fire of Falcon 9 complete – targeting January 18 for an in-flight demonstration of Crew Dragon’s launch escape system, which will verify the spacecraft’s ability to carry astronauts to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency during ascent.”
Crew Dragon Launch Escape Demonstration
SpaceX is targeting Sunday, January 19 for an in-flight test of Crew Dragon’s launch escape capabilities from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This test, which does not have NASA astronauts onboard the spacecraft, is intended to demonstrate Crew Dragon’s ability to reliably carry crew to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency on ascent. The six-hour test window opens at 8:00 a.m. EST, or 13:00 UTC. A backup opportunity with the same six-hour launch window opening at 8:00 a.m. EST, or 13:00 UTC, is available on Monday, January 20. Current weather data suggests our best opportunity for the launch escape test will be towards the end of the four-hour window, but we will continue to provide updates as new data becomes available.