SpaceX mission abort test succeeds, paving way for astronaut mission

This NASA TV video frame grab shows four parachutes braking the descent of SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft before it splashes down in the Atlantic at the end of an emergency abort system test

SpaceX completes fiery emergency escape test ahead of first astronaut mission

The rocket that was destroyed on Sunday included the first booster ever flown from SpaceX's newest rocket type, the Falcon 9 Block 5, which had its first launch in May 2018.

Delayed a day by bad weather, Sunday's launch from Kennedy brought together hundreds of SpaceX, NASA and Air Force employees on land, at sea and in the air.

The Falcon engines deliberately shut down, and the booster tumbled out of control and crashed into the Atlantic.

The space ship was carried to a safe distance from the Falcon 9 rocket; the SuperDraco engine mounted around the circumference of the gumdrop-shaped crew capsule and fired around eight seconds.

Crew Dragon then used on-board thrusters to steer the vehicle as it fell back to Earth. Two sets of parachutes slowed its descent before it splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean. NASA manager James Bridenstine said there is still work to be done, such as a few parachute tests, but the last The major obstacle was the launch on Sunday. Air Force and SpaceX teams were stationed to fix it while they were rehearsing to remove a crew from the capsule. A high-altitude test flight was performed by SpaceX.

NASA astronauts have not launched from the USA since the space shuttle program ended in 2011.

The in-flight abort test, scheduled for a Saturday morning launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is meant to try out the spacecraft Crew Dragon's "escape capabilities" or its ability for astronauts to jettison if there were an emergency during launch, according to a statement from NASA.

Nasa has a similar contract with Boeing, which has developed the Starliner spacecraft for manned flights. But the development of both spacecrafts took years longer than expected.

He said, however, that NASA would continue to purchase additional seats on Russian Soyuz capsules to ensure that American astronauts have access to the space station.

Although the United States space agency paid the companies to develop their vehicles, the Boeing Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon are privately owned and operated. So, unlike previous human spaceflight programs, NASA will essentially be a customer for the companies during their missions.

NASA awarded $4.2 billion to Boeing and $2.5 billion to SpaceX in 2014 to develop separate capsule systems capable of ferrying astronauts to the space station from USA soil for the first time since NASA's space shuttle program ended in 2011.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon, however, appears to be on track for a crewed mission in the near future now that it's completed the emergency abort test.

The capsule has already demonstrated it can fly into orbit and autonomously dock with the International Space Station: It completed an uncrewed demonstration mission in March 2019.

He said he was "super excited" about the successful test.

The next major milestone for Crew Dragon is DM-2, the codename for the first test mission that will allow astronauts on board. Meanwhile, a launch this year will be the first time that NASA has sent astronauts to space from American soil since the retirement of the Space Shuttle program in 2011.

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