SpaceX “proves” its Crew Dragon’s escape system in test then spectacularly blows up rocket

by | Jan 20, 2020 | Commercial human spaceflight, NASA, Seradata News, SpaceX, Technology

While doubts remain about the SpaceX Crew Dragon, especially after its total destruction during a ground test last year, SpaceX appeared to vindicate itself after making a full flight test of the system before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA and SpaceX made a suborbital endo-atmospheric launch of a Falcon 9 from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, at 1530 GMT on 19 January, in order to perform an unmanned escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.

The rocket employed a reused first stage (B1046) which was flown on a normal flight path. It was equipped with an inert Falcon 9 upper stage mimicking a fully loaded version. About T+86 seconds after lift-off, the first stage was intentionally shut down and about a second later the Crew Dragon (Capsule C205) escape system was triggered in a simulation of an abort situation. The capsule’s body-mounted SuperDraco rocket thrusters then used an 8-second burn to push the capsule away from the rest of the Falcon 9 rocket.

Falcon 9 first stage is deliberately exploded in abort test of Crew Dragon. Courtesy: SpaceX

In a piece of theatre about two seconds after the capsule’s escape, SpaceX deliberately exploded the first stage rocket making the escape look all too real. As it did so, the capsule flew on, making a ballistic arc and peaking at a velocity of Mach 2.2. It reached an altitude of circa 40 km before the trunk section was discarded. A pair of drogue parachutes was then deployed, followed by four main parachutes to allow the capsule to make a slow splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean, 32 km down range and about 9 minutes after launch.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine put his irritation over past delays and the less than perfect test of the SpaceX’s competitor, the Boeing commercial crew capsule Starliner, behind him when he said: “This critical flight test puts us on the cusp of returning the capability to launch astronauts in American spacecraft on American rockets from American soil.” Effectively, this test meant that NASA will soon no longer have to buy “seats” for its astronauts on the Russian Soyuz rocket launched spacecraft at exorbitant prices in order to get them to the International Space Station.

NASA telescope view of Crew Dragon before its drogue parachute deployment. Courtesy: NASA

Comment by David Todd: Whatever NASA or SpaceX says, the sidewall location of its SuperDraco escape thrusters means that this capsule is unsafe. Period. If this writer was an astronaut, he would be praying for a flight to the ISS on Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner or on the Soyuz system, or even the pressurised cargo version of Dragon. But not on this one.

About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned SpaceTrak Launch & Satellite Database. Trusted by 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, SpaceTrak is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to www.seradata.com/spacetrak

Related Articles

SpaceX launches another batch of Starlinks plus ION-SCV9 delivery spacecraft testing separation system

A Falcon 9v1.2FT Block 5 was launched from the Vandenberg Space Force base in California at 1615 GMT on 31 Read more

US sanctions SPACETY for supplying radar imagery to Russian Wagner Group in Ukraine

Just as Ukraine's military campaign has been supported by US commercial spacecraft operating firms — with SpaceX and Maxar providing Read more

SpaceX Falcon 9 launches Starlink Group 5-2

On 26 January 2023, at 0932 GMT, a Falcon 9v1.2FT Block 5 successfully launched 56 Starlink Gen2 satellites from Space Read more

Tianwen 1 mission’s Zhurong-1 Mars rover may have expired in its sleep

SpaceNews reports (quoting the South China Morning Post) that the Zhurong 1 Mars rover as part of the Tianwen 1 Read more

New orders: Isar Aerospace, SpaceX, Raytheon, Advance Space, Clyde Space and Xplore

European launch service company Isar Aerospace and US-based Spaceflight, which offers rides to orbit for satellites, have announced a multi-launch Read more

Tom Cruise may have saved cinema industry with Top Gun-Maverick but he has even higher movie plans with space station studio module now ordered

While action film actor Tom Cruise has his detractors, you cannot say he is not successful. Recently starring in the Read more

NASA goes Nuclear Thermal as it plans to launch engine on DARPA’s DRACO project test mission in 2027

Nuclear Thermal rocket propulsion has been mooted since the 1960s. The idea is to use nuclear power to heat rocket Read more

First ISS spacewalk for 2023 completed

On 20 January 2023 JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata and NASA astronaut Nicole Mann opened the Quest airlock hatch at 1312 Read more

Categories

Archives