SpaceX astronaut capsule splashes down off Florida after rocket failure test
The test is crucial to qualify SpaceX's astronaut capsule to fly humans to the International Space Station.
Elon Musk's SpaceX simulated a dramatic emergency landing on Sunday to test a crucial abort system on an unmanned astronaut capsule, the company's final milestone test before flying NASA astronauts from US soil.
A Crew Dragon astronaut capsule carrying two test dummies splashed down off the coast of Florida after ejecting itself from a rocket that cut off its engines 12 miles (19 km) above the ocean to mimic a launch failure.
The test is crucial to qualify SpaceX's astronaut capsule to fly humans to the International Space Station, a feat the National Aeronautics and Space Administration expects to come as soon as mid-2020.
As expected SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule will fire on-board thrusters to eject itself off a Falcon 9 rocket mid-air, simulating an emergency abort scenario that will prove it can return astronauts to safety. This happens under less than two minutes after liftoff from the launchpad in Florida.
The Falcon 9 rocket's boosters shut down at roughly 12 miles (19 km) above the ocean, a mock failure triggers Crew Dragon's so-called SuperDraco thrusters to jet itself away at supersonic speeds of up to 1,500 miles per hour (2,400 kph). The capsule deploys three parachutes to slow its descent to water, carrying aboard two human-shaped test dummies dressed in motion sensors to collect valuable data on the immense g-force — the effect of acceleration on the body — imposed during abort.
The in-flight abort test was originally scheduled to occur in mid-2019, but the timeline was delayed by nine months after one of SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsules exploded in April on a test stand just before firing its launch abort thrusters, triggering a lengthy investigation.
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 U.S. soil for the first time since NASA's space shuttle program ended in 2011.
With Inputs From Reuters