An In-Depth Look at Today’s Crucial Demonstration

In-Flight Abort test
A look at the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket on the pad at Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida earlier this morning.

SpaceX will intentionally send abort commands to Crew Dragon at one of the harshest moments in flight — Max Q, or maximum aerodynamic pressure. This will trigger a launch escape to demonstrate the spacecraft’s capability to safely separate from the Falcon 9 rocket in the event of a failure during launch.

Once the launch escape sequence begins, Falcon 9’s first stage Merlin engines will shut down and Crew Dragon’s SuperDraco thrusters will begin their firing sequence. The launch vehicle and spacecraft will separate, and Crew Dragon’s SuperDracos will burn to completion.

After Crew Dragon’s SuperDracos shut down, the spacecraft will coast to apogee, the highest point in its arc. Near apogee, Crew Dragon’s trunk will separate, and the smaller Draco thrusters will re-orient the spacecraft for reentry and parachute deploy. Dragon’s drogue and main parachutes will then sequence to provide for a soft landing in the Atlantic Ocean.

Splashdown will occur near SpaceX Dragon recovery teams, about 30-35 kilometers offshore. Following Crew Dragon’s separation, Falcon 9 is expected to aerodynamically break up offshore over the Atlantic Ocean.

As part of the Crew Dragon recovery operation, Air Force Detachment-3 personnel will work with the SpaceX recovery team to observe the spacecraft and practice their initial approach in the open ocean, mimicking an actual rescue operation before the SpaceX team recovers Crew Dragon for return to Cape Canaveral.