SpaceX to Blow Up a Falcon 9 During Next Saturday’s Crew Dragon Abort Test

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In What Could Be Their Final Safety Hurdle, Engineers Plan a Catastrophe for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Abort Test.

If you’d have asked SpaceX officials a couple of weeks ago, they’d have said all of this would happen tomorrow. They’d have been wrong. Both NASA and SpaceX brass decided to push the final Crew Dragon abort test back by a week. The Crew Dragon capsule plays a crucial role in the future of NASA’s human spaceflight program. It’s designed to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

Both Crew Dragon and Starliner, its Boeing counterpart, have faced significant delays over the past couple of years. However, Crew Dragon has already been to the ISS and back without a crew. Starliner just recently failed its first attempt to do that. Now Crew Dragon is ready for its final abort test. And as such, SpaceX and NASA officials are preparing for a big bang.

Watch: The Last Falcon 9 Launch

To Blow Up a Rocket

The beauty of the Falcon 9 rocket is its reliable reusability. SpaceX has one Falcon 9 that has seen over three successful launches and a couple more that have done three. That said, it’s got to be heartbreaking for the people who worked so hard building the technological wonder to watch one blow up. Especially on purpose. It’s akin to smashing a vintage 1957 Stratocaster on stage. Nevertheless, there’s naught for it. It’s got to be done. 

This final Crew Dragon abort test will start with a normal launch from Kennedy Space Center. Then, about 88 seconds after liftoff, the stage-one engines will shut down. At that point, the Crew Dragon goes into auto-abort mode. That sequence fires the eight SuperDraco engines that will separate the capsule from the rocket and rescue the “crew” from danger.

SpaceX engineers expect that the abort sequence will blow up the Falcon 9. In fact, they’re hoping it does. An explosion would mean all of the fuel would get burned up before it reached the ocean, causing as little pollution as possible. 

The launch is set for no earlier than Saturday morning, January 18th.

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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