California’s SpaceX has carried out a successful in-flight abort test of Crew Dragon, the space capsule designed to take NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.
The unmanned test was carried out to demonstrate Crew Dragon’s ability to reliably carry crew to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency on ascent.
The capsule, which is designed to carry up to seven astronauts, was launched aboard a Falcon 9 from Kennedy Space Centre at 10:30 a.m. EST on Sunday 19th January.
The abort sequence initiating approximately one and a half minutes into flight and the capsule’s eight SuperDraco engines powered the spacecraft away from Falcon 9 at speeds of over 400 mph.
Following separation, Dragon’s trunk was released and the spacecraft’s parachutes were deployed, first the two drogue parachutes followed by the four upgraded Mark III parachutes.
Dragon safely splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean and teams successfully recovered the spacecraft onto SpaceX’s recovery vessel.
Describing the latest test as a “picture perfect mission”, SpaceX boss Elon Musk said that the next step is to carry out the first crewed mission, which he said could happen as soon as the second quarter of this year (2020).