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Saturday, January 18, 2020

Elon Musk's SpaceX is gearing up to destroy one of its own rockets on Saturday to test a crucial emergency abort system on an unmanned astronaut capsule, the company's final milestone test before flying Nasa astronauts from US soil.

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Less than two minutes after liftoff from a launchpad in Florida, SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule will fire on-board thrusters to eject itself off a Falcon 9 rocket mid-air, simulating an emergency abort scenario that will prove it can return astronauts to safety.

"I will tell you tomorrow will be an exciting day," Kathy Lueders, Nasa's commercial crew program manager, told reporters on Friday.

The test is crucial to qualify SpaceX's astronaut capsule to fly humans to the International Space Station, a feat the National Aeronautics and Space Administration expects to come as soon as mid-2020. It follows years of development and delays as the United States has sought to revive its human spaceflight program through private partnerships.

The Falcon 9 rocket's boosters will shut down roughly 12 miles (19 km) above the ocean, a mock failure that will trigger Crew Dragon's so-called SuperDraco thrusters to jet itself away at supersonic speeds of up to 1,500 miles per hour (2,400 kph).

The capsule will deploy three parachutes to slow its descent to water, carrying aboard two human-shaped test dummies dressed in motion sensors to collect valuable data on the immense g-force the effect of acceleration on the body imposed during abort.

The booster will free-fall and tumble back uncontrollably toward the ocean, SpaceX's Crew Mission Management director Benji Reed said.

"At some point we expect that the Falcon will start to break up.

#1 | Posted by J_Tremain at 2020-01-18 02:00 PM | Reply

Y'all realize this is a private company. The test of the escape system was the last hurdle before they could deliver our astronauts and supplies to the ISS. All they needed to do was do it cheaper than the Russians.

#2 | Posted by docnjo at 2020-01-19 03:36 PM | Reply

Gotta make sure that the windows don't shatter.

#3 | Posted by donnerboy at 2020-01-19 03:39 PM | Reply

All they needed to do was do it cheaper than the Russians.

#2 | POSTED BY DOCNJO AT 2020-01-19 03:36 PM | REPLY

It doesn't have to be cheaper. After underbidding to get market share in the first place, they raised their prices and became the most expensive ISS cargo option. Refurb between launches are expensive due to parallel construction and refurb supply chains. Nobody has made the math work on that since they began landing reusable rockets to dirt in the 90s with DC-X. To be a cheaper cargo service than Soyuz, Falcon 9 needs another 80 years of ISS service instead of its remaining 8.

#4 | Posted by sitzkrieg at 2020-01-20 08:42 AM | Reply

We'll pay more for it to not be Russian, and keep just enough Soyuz flights so interests remain conjoined between space programs.

#5 | Posted by sitzkrieg at 2020-01-20 08:43 AM | Reply

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