The first critical test flight of SpaceX's crewed Dragon that will soon launch American astronauts back to orbit and the International Space Station (ISS) from American soil is now less than two days away.
The test flight – called the Pad Abort Test – is slated for the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 6, if all goes well. The key facts and a timeline of the test events are outlined herein.
It constitutes a crucial first test of the crew capsule escape system that will save astronauts lives in a split second in the unlikely event of a catastrophic launch pad failure with the Falcon 9 rocket.
The May 6 pad abort test will be performed from the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch pad from a platform at Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The test will not include an actual Falcon 9 booster.
SpaceX has just released new images showing the Dragon crew capsule and trunk section being moved to the launch pad and being positioned atop the launch mount on SLC-40. See above and below. Together the Dragon assembly stands about 20 feet (5 meters) tall.
"Buster the Dummy already works for a great show you may have heard of called MythBusters. Our dummy prefers to remain anonymous for the time being, " SpaceX said today.
The test window opens at 7 a.m. EDT May 6 and extends until 2:30 p.m. EDT into the afternoon.
The webcast will start about 20 minutes prior to the opening of the window. NASA will also provide periodic updates about the test at their online Commercial Crew Blog.SpaceX Pad Abort Test vehicle being transported at the Florida launch complex. Credit: SpaceX
The current weather forecast predicts a 70% GO for favorable weather conditions during the lengthy test window.
Since the Pad Abort Test is specifically designed to be a development test, in order to learn crucial things about the performance of the escape system, it doesn't have to be perfect to be valuable.
And delays due to technical issues are a very significant possibility.
"No matter what happens on test day, SpaceX is going to learn a lot, " said Jon Cowart, NASA's partner manager for SpaceX at a May 1 media briefing at the Kennedy Space Center press site. "One test is worth a thousand good analyses."
NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services: A New Era in Spaceflight - History of International Space Station (ISS) Cargo and Crew, SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, Bigelow
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