Bad weather forces delay of SpaceX simulated rocket failure test
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[January 18, 2020]
By Joey Roulette
CAPE CANAVERAL (Reuters) - Bad weather
forced Elon Musk's SpaceX to delay until Sunday a test in which it will
destroy one of its own rockets in a trial of a crucial emergency abort
system on an unmanned astronaut capsule.
The test, the company's final milestone test before flying NASA
astronauts from U.S. soil, had been planned to take place on Saturday.
SpaceX said in a Twitter post it was standing down from the Crew
Dragon capsule test because of high winds and rough seas in the recovery
It was now looking at carrying out the test on Sunday, with a six-hour
test window starting at 8 a.m. ET (1300 GMT).
Less than two minutes after liftoff from a launchpad in Florida, the
Crew Dragon will fire on-board thrusters to eject itself off a Falcon 9
rocket mid-air, simulating an emergency abort scenario that will prove
it can return astronauts to safety.
The test is crucial to qualify SpaceX's astronaut capsule to fly humans
to the International Space Station, which the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration expects to come as soon as mid-2020. It follows
years of development and delays as the United States has sought to
revive its human spaceflight program through private partnerships.
NASA awarded $4.2 billion to Boeing <BA.N> and $2.5 billion to SpaceX in
2014 to develop separate capsule systems capable of ferrying astronauts
to the space station from U.S. soil for the first time since NASA's
space shuttle program ended in 2011.
The space agency has since relied on Russian spacecraft to hitch rides
to the space station.
In the test, the Falcon 9 rocket's boosters will shut down roughly 12
miles (19 km) above the ocean, a mock failure that will trigger Crew
Dragon's so-called SuperDraco thrusters to jet itself away at supersonic
speeds of up to 1,500 miles per hour (2,400 kph).
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The SpaceX Crew Dragon sits atop a Falcon 9 booster rocket on Pad
39A at Kennedy Space Center before a scheduled in-flight abort test
at Cape Canaveral, Florida January 17, 2020. REUTERS/Joe Rimkus Jr.
The capsule will deploy three parachutes to slow its descent to
water, carrying aboard two human-shaped test dummies dressed in
motion sensors to collect valuable data on the immense g-force — the
effect of acceleration on the body — imposed during abort.
The booster will free-fall and tumble back uncontrollably toward the
ocean, SpaceX's Crew Mission Management director Benji Reed said.
"At some point we expect that the Falcon will start to break up."
"Our Falcon 9 recovery forces will be standing by ready to go and
recover as much of the Falcon as we can as safely as possible," Reed
The in-flight abort test was originally scheduled to take place in
mid-2019, but the timeline was delayed by nine months after one of
SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsules exploded in April on a test stand just
before firing its launch abort thrusters, triggering a lengthy
SpaceX zeroed in on a previously unknown explosive reaction between
a titanium valve and the capsule's rocket fuel. Reed told Reuters
SpaceX had completed the investigation within the last week.
(Reporting by Joey Roulette in Cape Canaveral; Editing by Greg
Mitchell, Rosalba O'Brien and Frances Kerry)
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