SpaceX have successfully completed the first critical flight test of the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Launching just after dawn from Cape Canaveral, the Crew Dragon completed its test in what is surely one of the shortest flights in SpaceX history.
Judging from the livestream (shown in the video below) it seems as though all aspects of the test went as planned, concluding with splashdown in the Atlantic. Various stages of the test are depicted in pictures beneath.
The test was demonstrating performance of the Dragon’s launch abort system – an escape system to be used in the event of crewed launches detecting fault or imminent danger. It was also the first time that the Dragon’s eight SuperDraco engines have operated simultaneously under flight conditions. Each one produces about 15,000 pounds of thrust.
SpaceX have since commented that Dragon traveled from 0-100 mph in 1.2 seconds, reaching a max velocity of 345 mph.
The validity of the launch abort system is paramount to SpaceX gaining certification from NASA in order to proceed with their contract to take astronauts into space using the Crew Dragon spacecraft.
Crew Dragon is being designed as a manned version of the Dragon cargo spacecraft which is currently in use for Commercial Resupply Service (CRS) missions to the International Space Station for NASA.
Later this year SpaceX will carry out an in-flight launch abort test in which the launch abort system will be engaged after the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket on which the Crew Dragon will sit atop of.
You can read more about the launch abort test, the SuperDraco engines, and the significance of today’s events in yesterday’s article ‘Preparations for SpaceX’s First Dragon Launch Abort Test‘.