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SpaceX's Dragon Rejection System is Aces Ground Test Before Big Launch



CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX & # 39; s Crew Dragon Astronaut Taxi successfully launched its ground launch engines today (November 13) at Cape Canaveral Air Force's facilities while retaining the target vehicle for a crucial flight test in the coming weeks.

A brief "static fire" occurring around 3:08 PM EST (2008 GMT) paves the way for the upcoming SpaceX SpaceX Interruption Flight Test (IFA), a crucial non-stretch flight intended to show that the capsule could keep future astronauts safe if something went wrong during the launch. If the IFA goes well, people can fly aboard the Crew Dragon sometime next year.

Today's static fire occurred nearly seven months after an explosion shook the same test bench during a previous attempt to test Crew Dragon's SuperDraco firing chokes. This anomaly, which destroyed this particular capsule, caused SpaceX to tweak the design of the Crew Dragon abortion system.

Related: SpaceX and Boeing Space Launch System Explained

SpaceX with NASA, US Air Force, and National Transportation Safety Board months in the investigation into the April incident before determine the root cause which the company announced to reporters during a teleconference in July.

Like many similar designs, Crew Dragon emergency engines rely on volatile chemicals (known as hypergolics) that burn when combined. This makes for simpler and more reliable engines, but fuel management can be complicated.

According to SpaceX representatives, the explosion on April 20 occurred during the testing of power tubes on the same Crew Dragon spacecraft that flew the historic undeveloped Demo-1 mission to the International Space Station (ISS ) in March. SpaceX tested the onboard craft (both smaller Draco maneuvers and larger SuperDracos) before the planned IFA, which was initially expected to take place this summer.

During the April test, a small amount of liquid oxidant leaked into another system, causing an explosive chain reaction that led to the destruction of the vehicle, investigators concluded. SpaceX said that going forward, the company will revamp the system and replace the valves with disrupted disks.

With the successful static fire today, SpaceX can get past the anomaly and prepare for the upcoming IFA, which is expected to take place sometime in December. After SpaceX and NASA complete the review of the data collected during this test, a flight abortion date will be set.

SpaceX is one of two companies that build space taxis for astronauts under a NASA contract. Boeing is also developing its own spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner capsule to transport astronauts' crews from and to the space station. Boeing completed ground testing of its launch escape system called pad abort on November 4. Starliner has not yet visited the orbital laboratory, but Crew Dragon has one ISS mission under its belt – a weekly demonstration-1 that ended with a successful successful transfusion into the ocean . This first flight was a highlight for SpaceX and one that had to be completed before Crew Dragon could carry people.

The IFA is just as important. The upcoming test will show that the capsule is capable of protecting the crews of astronauts if something goes wrong during the launch in orbit. (Russia's Soyuz spacecraft was to launch its escape system in October 2018 after its Soyuz rocket failed to perform as expected during the launch of ISS crew.)

During the IFA, eight SuperDraco engines – which are built into the Crew Dragon hull – will fire, demonstrating that the spacecraft can pull away from the rocket. SpaceX will launch one of its Falcon 9 rockets with Crew Dragon on top. Just after the company expires, the company will activate an abortion system that will blow the capsule away from the rocket.

Video: SpaceX Crew Dragon SuperDraco Tests in Multiple Incredible Views ground test in 2015 using the system.

SpaceX's next major milestone after the IFA will be its first mission, in which Crew Dragon will transport two astronauts – Bob Benken and Doug Hurley – to the space station for a short stay before returning to Earth.

Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap . Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook .

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(Image credit: All About Space)


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