Whee! Zip down from the launch tower in SpaceX's new emergency-escape slide (video)

SpaceX just tested a new astronaut ride — one that takes folks down to the ground rather than high above it.

That ride is a deployable slide installed atop the tower at Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), a pad at Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. It's designed to get astronauts off the tower in a hurry in the event of an emergency before liftoff.

We just got to see the slide in action, thanks to a video SpaceX posted on X on Tuesday (March 19). The 24-second video provides an astronaut's-eye view of the slide experience, which — though serious business — wouldn't be out of place at an amusement park.

"Even though it’s meant to be used for emergencies, it looks like a lot of fun!" SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said via X on Tuesday, in a post responding to the slide video.

Related: SpaceX to launch 30th cargo mission to the ISS for NASA this week

SpaceX tests its new emergency-escape astronaut slide at Pad 40 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. This is a screenshot from a video SpaceX posted to X on March 19, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

The recent slide test is part of SpaceX's effort to certify SLC-40 for astronaut launches. SpaceX has launched 13 crewed missions to date, all of them from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, which is next door to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

To evacuate from Pad 39A's launch tower, astronauts jump into baskets that slide down wires to terra firma. The SLC-40 system is different, as the new video shows: It's an enclosed chute that deploys from the top of the tower when needed, riding already-emplaced cables to the ground.

SpaceX has launched many (uncrewed) missions from SLC-40 over the years. And another one will lift off on Thursday (March 21), if all goes according to plan.

A Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch a robotic Dragon cargo capsule toward the International Space Station from the pad on Thursday at 4:55 p.m. EDT (2055 GMT). You can watch the action here on Space.com when the time comes.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.