On Sunday, SpaceX conducted an altitude test of the company’s Crew Dragon capsule. The Falcon 9 launch rocket soared 20 km over Florida’s Space Coast with its engines shut off. However, it had suddenly burst into flames.
A grand display
Despite looking like a catastrophe, this was an intentional move by the space exploration firm. This is because it was testing the ship’s ability to escape a rocket failure and save its crew. This is just in time before two NASA astronauts enter the capsule this spring to head to the International Space Station (ISS).
Crew Dragon separating from Falcon 9 during today’s test, which verified the spacecraft’s ability to carry astronauts to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency on ascent pic.twitter.com/rxUDPFD0v5
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 19, 2020
QZ reports that even though the boosters have been designed to be reusable, SpaceX has to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Therefore, this rocket was sacrificed after three previous outings.
The Crew Dragon spacecraft that was on top of the rocket had escaped, using its thrusters to fly to safety. It then deployed its parachutes to glide down to the ocean near Florida.
This spectacular series of photos shows the Crew Dragon abort and the expected explosion of the Falcon 9 rocket during today’s launch escape test over Florida’s Space Coast (📷: Katie Darby). https://t.co/aocyihhVRd pic.twitter.com/GfmEXrRouc
— Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) January 19, 2020
These systems can be crucial to saving the lives of those onboard. A similar process saved the lives of an astronaut and a cosmonaut in 2028. Following a launch of a Soyuz rocket from Russia’s space agency.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk spoke of the importance of this mission just before it took off.
“Dragon high altitude, supersonic abort test is a risky mission, as it’s pushing the envelope in so many ways,” he said on his Twitter.
Following the success of the project, he said that the mission was picture perfect.
Ready for lift-off
This experiment was his company’s last milestone in its long-term journey to help transport NASA astronauts to the ISS.
Musk and his engineers will now analyze an abundance of data to certify the Dragon spacecraft and the Falcon 9 for a manned flight test. This groundbreaking test could be performed as soon as March.
These tests follow Boeing’s Starliner launch to assist NASA with transport to the ISS last month. However, this mission had hit some problems as the engines of the capsule that detached failed to ignite.
Therefore, SpaceX is in a prime position to lead space exploration this decade. With a series of successful tests and a huge investment in other programs such as Starlink, it will hold a commanding presence in the heavens.
Altogether, the space race looks to be back on in a new era. New technologies have been helping institutions reach new heights and by the time this decade is over, SpaceX could be one step closer in its mission to colonize Mars.
What are your thoughts on the successful testing conducted by SpaceX? Let us know what you think of the progress in the comment section.