SpaceX's Crew Dragon faces critical test for future astronaut flights Saturday

Space.com | 1/14/2020 | Tariq Malik
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SpaceX is gearing up for a major Crew Dragon test flight this week, one that — if it goes well — will mark the final major milestone before the company launches astronauts into space.

Saturday - Jan - SpaceX - Crew - Dragon

On Saturday (Jan. 18), SpaceX will launch an uncrewed Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket on a critical flight test of the spacecraft's emergency abort system. The test, called an in-flight abort, will prove Crew Dragon's abort system can pull astronaut crews to safety in the event of a rocket failure during launch.

"Critical test launch before flying astronauts is green for Jan. 18," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter Saturday (Jan. 11) as the company test-fired the mission's Falcon 9 at Launch Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liftoff is set for 8 a.m. EST (1300 GMT), NASA has said.

SpaceX - Test - Crew - Dragon - NASA

SpaceX needs this test to go well to show that Crew Dragon is ready to launch NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station on a crewed flight test later this year. The company launched an uncrewed Crew Dragon to the station in March 2019, on a successful mission called Demo-1. But that capsule exploded during work on ground tests of the abort system a month later.

After upgrades to prevent a similar failure from happening again, SpaceX performed a series of ground-based abort system tests that cleared the way for Saturday's test.

SpaceX - Crew - Dragon - Abort - Engines

SpaceX's Crew Dragon is equipped with eight abort engines, called SuperDracos, to blast the space capsule free of its Falcon 9 during an emergency. During Saturday's test, that will happen about 90 seconds after liftoff, after which the Falcon 9's first stage engines will shut down.

After Crew Dragon reaches the peak of its arc, it will jettison its...
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