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In photos: SpaceX's amazing Crew Dragon in-flight abort test launch

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SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule takes off atop a Falcon 9 rocket on Jan. 19, 2020.

(Image credit: Tony Gray/NASA)

SpaceX successfully conducted an in-flight abort test of its Crew Dragon crew capsule on Sunday (Jan. 19) to test the emergency escape system, which would safely return astronauts to Earth in the event of a problem during launch. See photos of the test here!

Read the full story: SpaceX aces Crew Dragon launch abort test, destroys rocket on purpose

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(Image credit: SpaceX)

During the in-flight abort test, the Crew Dragon fired its built-in SuperDraco thrusters to separate from the Falcon 9 rocket, as seen in this illustration. After the separation, the Falcon 9 rocket was destroyed

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(Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule is perched on a Falcon 9 rocket in preparation for an in-flight abort test on Jan. 18, 2020. 

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(Image credit: NASA)

The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand ready for launch on Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

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(Image credit: NASA/SpaceX)

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon lift off from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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An amazing shot of SpaceX's Falcon 9 beginning to take off from Kennedy Space Center.

(Image credit: Tony Gray/NASA)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a major abort system test on Jan. 19, 2020 from Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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(Image credit: SpaceX)

The Falcon 9 rocket rises behind a SpaceX facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in this view from the launch of Crew Dragon's in-flight abort test. 

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(Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule are on their way to space. 

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(Image credit: NASA/SpaceX)

Here, SpaceX's Crew Dragon can be seen just after igniting its abort engine burn. Eight SuperDraco engines fired to rip the spacecraft free of its Falcon 9 rocket.

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The moment of separation as Crew Dragon fires its SuperDracos to separate from its Falcon 9 rocket during a successful in-flight abort test launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 19, 2020.

(Image credit: SpaceX)

The moment of separation as Crew Dragon fires its SuperDracos to separate from its Falcon 9 rocket during a successful in-flight abort test launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 19, 2020.

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SpaceX's in-flight abort test heats up.

(Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX's in-flight abort test heats up.  

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SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule separates from the Falcon 9 rocket, which was intentionally destroyed as part of the in-flight abort test.

(Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule separates from the Falcon 9 rocket, which was intentionally destroyed as part of the in-flight abort test. 

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(Image credit: NASA/SpaceX)

The Falcon 9 rocket, fully fueled for launch, appears to explode and break apart after Crew Dragon's abort maneuver. This was expected and SpaceX warned viewers to expect the rocket's fiery fate.

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(Image credit: NASA/SpaceX)

Crew Dragon's "trunk" is seen here after separating from the crew capsule section. Crew Dragon was expected to reach a maximum altitude of about 25 miles (40 kilometers) during the launch.

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(Image credit: NASA/SpaceX)

The four Mark 3 main parachutes deploy to slow Crew Dragon during its descent back to Earth. The spacecraft splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean about 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of the launch site.

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SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft sits on the recovery ship minutes after being pulled from the Atlantic Ocean after a critical in-flight abort test on Jan. 19, 2020.

(Image credit: NASA)

SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft sits on the recovery ship GO Searcher just minutes after being pulled from the Atlantic Ocean after a critical in-flight abort test on Jan. 19, 2020. 

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SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule safely returned to Port Canaveral on Sunday (Jan. 19), after a successful test of its launch escape system.

(Image credit: NASA)

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule safely returned to Port Canaveral on Sunday (Jan. 19), after a successful test of its launch escape system. 

Full Story: SpaceX's Crew Dragon returns to shore after successful abort test

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The Dragon’s trunk surprisingly landed in the water in tact after being jettisoned during the launch abort test.

(Image credit: SpaceX)

The Dragon’s trunk surprisingly landed in the water in tact after being jettisoned during the launch abort test.

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NASA astronauts Bob Behknen (left) and Doug Hurley will be the first to fly on SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft during the Demo-2 mission. It could launch in Spring 2020. Here, they walk through the access arm in a dress rehearsal for launch during SpaceX in-flight abort preparations.

(Image credit: SpaceX)

NASA astronauts Bob Behknen (left) and Doug Hurley will be the first to fly on SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft during the Demo-2 mission. It could launch in Spring 2020. Here, they walk through the access arm in a dress rehearsal for launch during SpaceX in-flight abort preparations.

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(Image credit: NASA)

The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand ready for launch on Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

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An illustration of a SpaceX Crew Dragon and its Falcon 9 rocket on Launch Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

(Image credit: SpaceX)

An artist's illustration of the Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad. 

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(Image credit: NASA)

The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand ready for launch on Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

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(Image credit: SpaceX)

The Falcon 9 rocket, topped with the uncrewed Crew Dragon spacecraft, lifted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 19 at 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT).

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Smoke billows out from under SpaceX's Falcon 9 during its successful launch abort test on Jan. 19, 2020.

(Image credit: SpaceX)

Smoke billows out from under SpaceX's Falcon 9 during its successful launch abort test on Jan. 19, 2020. 

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(Image credit: Glenn Benson/NASA)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a major abort system test on Jan. 19, 2020 from Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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(Image credit: Tony Gray/NASA)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a major abort system test on Jan. 19, 2020 from Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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(Image credit: Tony Gray/NASA)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a major abort system test on Jan. 19, 2020 from Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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(Image credit: Tony Gray/NASA)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a major abort system test on Jan. 19, 2020 from Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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(Image credit: Tony Gray/NASA)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a major abort system test on Jan. 19, 2020 from Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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A step-by-step look at SpaceX's major Crew Dragon in-flight abort launch test to demonstrate the spacecraft's emergency escape system in January 2020.

(Image credit: SpaceX)

A screenshot from an animation of the Crew Dragon in-flight abort test shows the launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida. 

Related: How SpaceX's Crew Dragon launch abort test today works in 10 not-so-easy steps

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A step-by-step look at SpaceX's major Crew Dragon in-flight abort launch test to demonstrate the spacecraft's emergency escape system in January 2020.

(Image credit: SpaceX)

The Falcon 9 first-stage booster on this flight launched for the fourth time; the booster launched a satellite for Bangladesh in May 2018an Indonesian satellite in August of that same year and then finally a set of 64 satellites in a rideshare mission in December 2018.

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A step-by-step look at SpaceX's major Crew Dragon in-flight abort launch test to demonstrate the spacecraft's emergency escape system in January 2020.

(Image credit: SpaceX)

Precisely 84 seconds after liftoff, as the Falcon 9 rocket flew Mach 2.3, Crew Dragon fired its eight SuperDraco engines to rip itself free of the rocket's second stage. 

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A step-by-step look at SpaceX's major Crew Dragon in-flight abort launch test to demonstrate the spacecraft's emergency escape system in January 2020.

(Image credit: SpaceX)

Crew Dragon's SuperDracos fired for 10 seconds, pulling the capsule free of the Falcon 9 and carrying the capsule upward on a suborbital trajectory.

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A step-by-step look at SpaceX's major Crew Dragon in-flight abort launch test to demonstrate the spacecraft's emergency escape system in January 2020.

(Image credit: SpaceX)

About 2.5 minutes after liftoff, Crew Dragon jettisoned its "trunk" service module. The cylindrical, finned module contains the solar arrays and other gear required to sustain Crew Dragon's taxi flights to the International Space Station for NASA. 

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A step-by-step look at SpaceX's major Crew Dragon in-flight abort launch test to demonstrate the spacecraft's emergency escape system in January 2020.

(Image credit: SpaceX)

Just after the 3-minute mark, Crew Dragon fired its regular Draco thrusters to orient the space capsule for entry and splashdown. Crew Dragon did not reach space on this launch; the highest altitude the capsule reached is about 24.8 miles (40 km).

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A step-by-step look at SpaceX's major Crew Dragon in-flight abort launch test to demonstrate the spacecraft's emergency escape system in January 2020.

(Image credit: SpaceX)

About 5.5 minutes after liftoff, Crew Dragon began releasing parachutes to slow itself for splashdown. First came the release of two drogue chutes to stabilize the capsule and prepare it for the release of its four main parachutes. 

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A step-by-step look at SpaceX's major Crew Dragon in-flight abort launch test to demonstrate the spacecraft's emergency escape system in January 2020.

(Image credit: SpaceX)

Shortly after the drogue chutes deployed, Crew Dragon released its four main parachutes to slow the spacecraft's descent ahead of splashdown. The parachutes on this Crew Dragon were SpaceX's newest version, the Mark 3 parachute design.

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A step-by-step look at SpaceX's major Crew Dragon in-flight abort launch test to demonstrate the spacecraft's emergency escape system in January 2020.

(Image credit: SpaceX)

About 10 minutes after launch, Crew Dragon splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean. The drop zone was between 18 and 21 miles offshore (30-35 km). SpaceX's recovery ship, the GO Searcher, tracked the Crew Dragon ahead of its splashdown, setting the stage for the final step of the mission: Recovery.

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A step-by-step look at SpaceX's major Crew Dragon in-flight abort launch test to demonstrate the spacecraft's emergency escape system in January 2020.

(Image credit: SpaceX)

The GO Searcher was staged near the splashdown zone and was able to reach the Crew Dragon in a matter of minutes minutes. After recovering the Crew Dragon, the ship will return it to Cape Canaveral so it can be studied to see how it fared during the test. 

This gallery was originally published Jan. 19 and updated Jan. 22.

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  • Doug
    The image #10 says that it is a photo of the Crew Dragon siting on the recovery ship after the event, however it is actually a photo of the Crew Dragon capsule on top of the Falcon 9 at the launch pad at ~16 minutes prior to launch.
    Reply
  • Goodtobetheking
    Doug said:
    The image #10 says that it is a photo of the Crew Dragon siting on the recovery ship after the event, however it is actually a photo of the Crew Dragon capsule on top of the Falcon 9 at the launch pad at ~16 minutes prior to launch.

    You're correct, but the picture you cite shows up as image #16 in my slides rather than #10.
    Reply