SpaceX Tests Launch Abort System
SpaceX successfully tested a critical feature of the Dragon capsule – a launch pad escape system. The test is a crucial milestone in NASA and SpaceX’s commercial crew ambitions.
Think of the pad escape system like a fighter jet pilot’s ejection seat. If anything goes wrong, the rockets fire and push the crew to safety.
Launch abort systems were used on Mercury and Apollo capsules – they used a rocket attached to the top of the capsule to pull crew to safety. SpaceX’s system is a little different – rockets are integrated into the capsule itself.
Eight rockets launched the Crew Dragon spacecraft 5,000 feet above the pad and about a mile off shore. The test lasted less than two-minutes.
As part of its commercial crew contract, SpaceX needs to prove to NASA its system works and can assure the safety of future astronauts.