NASA, SpaceX Complete Final Major Flight Test of Crew Spacecraft

SpaceX in-flight abort test
NASA and SpaceX completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket on Jan. 19, 2020. The test began at 10:30 a.m. EST with liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a mission to show the spacecraft’s capability to safely separate from the rocket in the unlikely event of an inflight emergency. Credits: NASA Television
Watch the prelaunch activities and launch

NASA and SpaceX completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket Sunday. This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The launch escape test began at 10:30 a.m. EST with liftoff from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a mission to show the spacecraft’s capability to safely separate from the rocket in the unlikely event of an inflight emergency.

“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,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are thrilled with the progress NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is making and look forward to the next milestone for Crew Dragon.”

As part of the test, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff. All major functions were executed, including separation, engine firings, parachute deployment and landing. Crew Dragon splashed down at 10:38 a.m. just off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

“As far as we can tell thus far, it’s a picture perfect mission. It went as well as one can possibly expect,” said Elon Musk, chief engineer at SpaceX. “This is a reflection of the dedication and hard work of the SpaceX and NASA teams to achieve this goal. Obviously, I’m super fired up. This is great.”

Teams of personnel from SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force 45th Operations Group’s Detachment-3 out of Patrick Air Force Base will recover the spacecraft for return to SpaceX facilities in Florida and begin the recovery effort of the Falcon 9, which broke apart as planned.

“The past few days have been an incredible experience for us,” said astronaut Doug Hurley. “We started with a full dress rehearsal of what Bob and I will do for our mission. Today, we watched the demonstration of a system that we hope to never use, but can save lives if we ever do. It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point, and we can’t wait to take a ride to the space station soon.”

Prior to the flight test, teams completed launch day procedures for the first crewed flight test, from suit-up to launch pad operations. The joint teams now will begin the full data reviews that need to be completed prior to NASA astronauts flying the system during SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station. Commercial human space transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbiting laboratory. The program also has the benefit of facilitating and promoting for America a vibrant economy in low-Earth orbit.

In-Flight Abort Post-Test News Conference Underway

A post-test news conference for NASA and SpaceX’s in-flight abort demonstration is taking place at NASA’s Kennedy Space Station in Florida.

An update from SpaceX and NASA officials, including NASA Commercial Crew Program astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins, is underway. Tune in to the post-test news conference, which is being broadcast live from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on NASA TV and the agency’s website. Participants include:

  • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
  • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
  • Elon Musk, chief engineering, SpaceX
  • Victor Glover, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program
  • Mike Hopkins, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program

Today’s in-flight abort blogging will conclude with a wrap-up post featuring comments from the post-test news conference.

Post-Test News Conference No Earlier Than 11:30 a.m. EST

SpaceX's In-Flight Abort Test
NASA and SpaceX successfully completed the in-flight abort test. The Crew Dragon spacecraft is now in the process of being recovered from the Atlantic Ocean. A post-test news conference is scheduled for today, no earlier than 11:30 EST.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft splashed down offshore in the Atlantic Ocean at 10:39 a.m. EST after a launch on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Teams of personnel from SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force 45th Operations Groups Detachment-3 out of Patrick Air Force Base will recover the spacecraft for return to SpaceX facilities in Florida, and a dedicated team will begin the recovery effort of the Falcon 9, which broke apart as planned.

Next up on NASA television and the agency’s website:

  • 11:30 a.m. (no earlier than) – Post-test news conference at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
    • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
    • Elon Musk, chief engineering, SpaceX
    • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Victor Glover, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Mike Hopkins, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program

Today’s in-flight abort blogging will conclude with a wrap-up post featuring comments from the post-test news conference.

Learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Spacecraft Splashes Down Safely in the Atlantic Ocean

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule has splashed down into the ocean! The test was completed in less than 10 minutes.

The next step is recovery of the spacecraft. That process is expected to take approximately two hours.

Stay tuned for a preview of the post-test news conference.

Crew Dragon Chutes Deploy

SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test
Crew Dragon’s drogue and main parachutes will enable the spacecraft to have a soft landing in the Atlantic Ocean.

Crew Dragon’s parachutes have deployed and the spacecraft is descending toward the Atlantic Ocean.

Splashdown is expected in about six minutes.

Liftoff! SpaceX’s In-Flight Abort Test Underway

SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020.

We have liftoff! A Falcon 9 rocket has blasted off from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft for NASA and SpaceX’s in-flight abort test.

Crew Dragon separation should occur at 1 minute, 24 seconds, followed by the spacecraft’s trunk deploy less than 40 seconds later.

NASA, SpaceX Look to Hit Multiple Milestones during Critical Test

SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and uncrewed Crew Dragon capsule is scheduled to lift off from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida today at 10:30 a.m. EST.

We are now just a few minutes from NASA and SpaceX’s 10:30 a.m. EST in-flight abort test. The company’s Falcon 9 rocket and uncrewed Crew Dragon capsule is scheduled to lift off from Launch Complex 39A. The six-hour test window opened at 8 a.m. EST.

Here are the main milestones, including approximate times after launch:

  • +1 minute, 24 seconds — Crew Dragon separation
  • +2 minutes — Crew Dragon trunk deploy
  • +4 minutes — Drogue/main parachute deploy begins
  • +10 minutes — Crew Dragon splashdown

Follow along here on the blog, or tune in to live coverage of the event on NASA TV and the agency’s website, which started at 10:12 a.m.

A post-test news conference is planned for noon. That also will be broadcast on NASA TV and the agency’s website. Participants include:

  • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
  • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
  • SpaceX representative
  • Victor Glover, astronaut, Commercial Crew Program
  • Mike Hopkins, astronaut, Commercial Crew Program

Next up is liftoff!

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.

NASA, SpaceX Teams Preparing for 10:30 a.m. EST Launch

In-Flight Abort Test launch day
Today’s NASA and SpaceX in-flight abort test launch is set for 10:30 a.m. EST.

Hello, and good morning from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida! Welcome to coverage of this morning’s in-flight abort test.

NASA and SpaceX teams are targeting 10:30 a.m. EST today for the demonstration, which is set to begin in about 25 minutes from Launch Complex 39A. The six-hour launch window ends at 2 p.m. EST. NASA Commercial Crew Program astronauts Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover are present for this critical test.

Follow along on the blog as we track the milestones of today’s final, major test before the astronauts fly aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Also, live coverage of the event can be seen on NASA TV and the agency’s website starting at 10:12 a.m.

The latest weather reports from meteorologists with the 45th Space Wing predict a 60% chance of favorable conditions for launch toward the opening of the window, with a 40% chance toward the end of the window. The primary concerns for launch day are the thick cloud layer and flight through precipitation rules during the launch window.

Crew Dragon Spacecraft, Falcon 9 Rocket Set for In-Flight Abort Test

If-flight abort test Jan. 19, 2020
Today’s in-flight abort test will demonstrate the Crew Dragon spacecraft’s ability to safely escape the Falcon 9 rocket in the event of a failure during launch.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket are vertical and set for a 10:30 a.m. EST launch of the company’s In-Flight Abort Test from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The test will demonstrate Crew Dragon’s ability to safely escape the Falcon 9 rocket in the event of a failure during launch. The abort test launch window ends at 2 p.m. EST this afternoon.

Launch coverage will begin at 10:10 a.m., followed at noon by a post-test news conference with representatives from NASA and SpaceX. The launch and post-test news conference will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Mission Timeline (all times approximate)

COUNTDOWN 

Hour/Min/Sec        Events

45:00                          SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load

37:00                          Dragon launch escape system is armed

35:00                          RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading begins

35:00                          1st stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading begins

16:00                          2nd stage LOX loading begins

07:00                          Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch

05:00                          Dragon transitions to internal power

01:00                          Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks

01:00                          Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins

00:45                          SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch

00:03                          Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start

00:00                          Falcon 9 liftoff

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing continue to predict a 60% chance of favorable weather toward the opening of the window with a 40% chance toward the end of the window. The primary concerns for launch day are the thick cloud layer and flight through precipitation rules during the launch window.

Learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.