As SpaceX prepares for a crucial Crew Dragon abort flight this month, you can watch the results of another recent test for the spacecraft in a video. Just remember to turn on the volume first.
In November, SpaceX finished several static-fire engine tests of its spacecraft, which is supposed to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station in 2020. The video of those tests offers a dramatic view of the Crew Dragon under full fire, with so much smoke and flame spitting out that the output obscures the camera's view.
"Full-duration static-fire test of Crew Dragon's launch escape system complete," SpaceX said on Twitter Nov. 13. "SpaceX and NASA teams are now reviewing test data and working toward an in-flight demonstration of Crew Dragon's launch escape capabilities."
The next stage of the vehicle's progress will be an in-flight abort trial, which will happen at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It's an important test to show that astronauts could blast away to safety in case of an emergency during launch. During the procedure, Crew Dragon will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Then, the spacecraft will tear away from that rocket using the SuperDraco escape thrusters on the vehicle.
Crew Dragon already made one visit to the space station, in March, during the uncrewed Demo-1 mission. But before transporting humans, SpaceX's vehicle must pass the in-flight abort test. Only then will NASA give the green light for two astronauts, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, to launch on Crew Dragon. If all this goes to plan, SpaceX could then send full-fledged, operational flights to the space station.
SpaceX and Boeing are both preparing commercial crew vehicles for space station visits, as part of a program initiated to replace functions of the space shuttle, which retired in 2011. NASA currently purchases seats aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft to give U.S. astronauts access to orbit. But the long-term goal is to resume launching most U.S. astronauts aboard these new U.S. commercial vehicles.
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Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace