Elon Musk-led SpaceX has today successfully launched its Crew Dragon spacecraft using a Falcon 9 rocket, in a major step towards test of human-related spacecraft’s In-Flight Abort (IFA) system.
The safety feature separates the Crew Dragon from the Falcon 9 rocket early, propelling the spacecraft, along with astronauts who would be on board during the real mission, to a safe distance at an extremely high speed.
While the test was originally scheduled for Saturday, but due to unsuitable weather conditions, the launch window for the test was shifted to today. It’s noteworthy this is the final test in a collaboration between SpaceX and NASA in a lead up to the space company launching actual personnel on a spacecraft headed for the International Space Station.
As expected, the In-Flight Abort process was automatically triggered at about 84 seconds into the launch, when the rocket and the payload were about 60,000 feet above the Earth. It separated the crew aircraft from Falcon to a safe distance away from the rocket. About 5 minutes after the launch, it deployed the parachute system and about 10 minutes later, it landed in the Atlantic Ocean, roughly 3 to 3.5 km from shore.
Now, the Dragon capsule as well as the dummies acting as test subject will be studied to determine whether all the safety measures are in check and if SpaceX is ready for its first manned mission or not.
Also, the remains of the fusela will be studied for future references, along with an extensive study this could have in terms of environmental impact. To date, the company has completed more than 700 tests of Crew Dragon’s SuperDraco engines, which will power the spacecraft away from Falcon 9 and carry crew to safety at any point during ascent or in the unlikelyevent of an emergency on the launch pad.
Last year, in March 2019, SpaceX completed an end-to-end test flight of Crew Dragon without NASA astronauts onboard, making Dragon the first American spacecraft to autonomously dock with the International Space Station and safely return to Earth.