SpaceX performed a two minute test of its Dragon space capsule Wednesday morning, completing a key step toward its plan to carry astronauts for NASA by 2017.
The space capsule and its "trunk, " which attaches to the bottom of the capsule, blasted off of a launch pad at Cape Canaveral. The two pieces quickly separated, and the capsule splashed down in the ocean about a mile off shore.
SpaceX says its system provides greater safety for astronauts in case of a rocket malfunction than other manned spacecraft. It's designed to use eight rocket engines to get the capsule 100 meters away from the rocket in just two seconds, and a half-kilometer away within five seconds. Unlike previous abort systems, it can provide an escape anytime during the spacecraft's trip to orbit, rather than just in the first few minutes of the flight, as NASA's abort systems were designed to do.
The company, run by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, is one of two working to develop the next generation of space craft to carry U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Boeing is the other company working on a spacecraft.
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