As SpaceX prepares for a crucial Crew Dragon abort flight this month, you can watch the results of another recent test for the spacecraft in a video. Just remember to turn on the volume first.
In November, SpaceX finished several static-fire engine tests of its spacecraft, which is supposed to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station in 2020. The video of those tests offers a dramatic view of the Crew Dragon under full fire, with so much smoke and flame spitting out that the output obscures the camera’s view.
“Full-duration static-fire test of Crew Dragon’s launch escape system complete,” SpaceX said on Twitter Nov. 13. “SpaceX and NASA teams are now reviewing test data and working toward an in-flight demonstration of Crew Dragon’s launch escape capabilities.”
The next stage of the vehicle’s progress will be an in-flight abort trial, which will happen at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It’s an important test to show that astronauts could blast away to safety in case of an emergency during launch. During the procedure, Crew Dragon will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Then, the spacecraft will tear away from that rocket using the SuperDraco escape thrusters on the vehicle.
Crew Dragon already made one visit to the space station, in March, during the uncrewed Demo-1 mission. But before transporting humans, SpaceX’s vehicle must pass the in-flight abort test. Only then will NASA give the green light for two astronauts, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, to launch on Crew Dragon. If all this goes to plan, SpaceX could then send full-fledged, operational flights to the space station.
SpaceX and Boeing are both preparing commercial crew vehicles for space station visits, as part of a program initiated to replace functions of the space shuttle, which retired in 2011. NASA currently purchases seats aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft to give U.S. astronauts access to orbit. But the long-term goal is to resume launching most U.S. astronauts aboard these new U.S. commercial vehicles.