SpaceX will launch a major test flight of its Crew Dragon spacecraft on Saturday, Jan. 18, to test its launch abort system and you can watch it live in the window above, courtesy of NASA TV. Liftoff is set for 8 a.m. EST (1300 GMT).
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the uncrewed capsule from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida during a 4-hour launch window that opens at 8 a.m. EST. NASA's webcast will begin at 7:45 a.m. EST (1245 GMT).
A live webcast of the launch will begin about 15 minutes before liftoff, and you can watch it live in the window above, courtesy of NASA TV. You can also watch SpaceX's webcast with commentary directly via SpaceX's website, beginning 20 minutes before liftoff.
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NASA will provide coverage of the upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for the SpaceX Crew Dragon launch escape demonstration, as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which is working with U.S. companies to launch American astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil.
NASA and SpaceX are targeting 8 a.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 18, for launch of the company’s In-Flight Abort Test, which will demonstrate Crew Dragon’s ability to safely escape the Falcon 9 rocket in the event of a failure during launch. The abort test has a four-hour launch window.
The test launch, as well as other activities leading up to the test, will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon will launch from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX will intentionally trigger Crew Dragon to perform the launch escape prior to 1 minute, 30 seconds into flight. Falcon 9 is expected to aerodynamically break up offshore over the Atlantic Ocean. The spacecraft is planned to land under parachutes offshore in the ocean.
Full coverage is as follows. All times are EST:
Friday, Jan. 17
1 p.m. – Pre-test briefing at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
- Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
- Benji Reed, director, Crew Mission Management, SpaceX
- Mike McAleenan, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron
Saturday, Jan. 18
7:45 a.m. – NASA TV test coverage begins for the 8 a.m. liftoff
9:30 a.m. – Post-test news conference at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
- Jim Bridenstine, administrator, NASA
- SpaceX representative
- Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
- Victor Glover, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program
- Mike Hopkins, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program
SpaceX is targeting Saturday, January 18 for an in-flight test of Crew Dragon's launch escape capabilities from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This test, which does not have NASA astronauts onboard the spacecraft, is intended to demonstrate Crew Dragon's ability to reliably carry crew to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency on ascent.
The four-hour test window opens at 8:00 a.m. EST, or 13:00 UTC. Backup test opportunities with the same four-hour launch window opening at 8:00 a.m. EST, or 13:00 UTC, are available on Sunday, January 19 and Monday, January 20.
SpaceX designed Crew Dragon to be one of the safest human spaceflight systems ever built. To date, the company has completed more than 700 tests of Crew Dragon's SuperDraco engines, which will power the spacecraft away from Falcon 9 and carry crew to safety at any point during ascent or in the unlikely event of an emergency on the launch pad. In May 2015, SpaceX completed a pad abort demonstration of Crew Dragon.
In March 2019, SpaceX completed an end-to-end test flight of Crew Dragon without NASA astronauts onboard, making Dragon the first American spacecraft to autonomously dock with the International Space Station and safely return to Earth.
For this test, Falcon 9's ascent trajectory will mimic a Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station to best match the physical environments the rocket and spacecraft will encounter during a normal ascent. However, SpaceX has configured Crew Dragon to intentionally trigger a launch escape after Max Q, the moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket.
Following Crew Dragon's separation, Falcon 9 is expected to aerodynamically break up offshore over the Atlantic Ocean. Expected breakup time will vary due to a number of factors, including winds and expected minor variations in vehicle attitudes and positions, but could occur shortly after separation or upon reentry from Earth's upper atmosphere. In either scenario, a dedicated team of SpaceX Falcon 9 recovery personnel will be staged and ready to begin recovering debris immediately after breakup.
SpaceX's in-flight demonstration of Crew Dragon's launch escape capabilities is designed to provide valuable data toward NASA certifying the spacecraft to begin carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
MISSION TIMELINE (all times approximate)
|- 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|
DRAGON SEPARATION AND SPLASHDOWN
Once the launch escape sequence begins, approximately 90 seconds after liftoff, 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 shutdown, the spacecraft will passively 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. When the appropriate conditions are met, Dragon’s drogue and main parachutes will sequence to provide for a soft landing in the
Atlantic Ocean near SpaceX Dragon recovery teams. For this test, SpaceX will be flying Crew Dragon’s upgraded Mark 3 parachutes on the spacecraft – one of the most advanced parachute systems in the world. In total, SpaceX has completed over 80 tests of its parachute system, including 10 multi-parachute tests of the upgraded Mark 3 system. Splashdown is expected to occur about 10 minutes after liftoff.
As part of the Dragon recovery operation, Air Force Detachment-3 personnel will work with the SpaceX recovery team to observe Crew Dragon and practice their initial approach to the spacecraft in the open ocean, mimicking an actual rescue operation before the SpaceX team recovers Crew Dragon for return to Cape Canaveral.
'ISS Live!' Tune in to the International Space Station
Find out what the astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station are up to by tuning in to the "ISS Live" broadcast. Hear conversations between the crew and mission controllers on Earth and watch them work inside the U.S. segment of the orbiting laboratory. When the crew is off duty, you can enjoy live views of Earth from Space. You can watch and listen in the window below, courtesy of NASA.
"Live video from the International Space Station includes internal views when the crew is on-duty and Earth views at other times. The video is accompanied by audio of conversations between the crew and Mission Control. This video is only available when the space station is in contact with the ground. During 'loss of signal' periods, viewers will see a blue screen.
"Since the station orbits the Earth once every 90 minutes, it experiences a sunrise or a sunset about every 45 minutes. When the station is in darkness, external camera video may appear black, but can sometimes provide spectacular views of lightning or city lights below."