SpaceX Tests 'Revolutionary' Dragon Launch Escape System to Save Astronauts

February 18, 2016 – 03:22 am

A SpaceX Dragon crew capsule prototype streaks into the sky during a launch abort system test on May 6, 2015 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.SpaceX launched a major test today of the innovative rocket escape system for its manned Dragon spaceships, a critical system designed to save astronauts in a launch emergency.

It was over in less than two minutes, with video of the Dragon crew capsule abort test showing the craft soaring skyward from a pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida today (May 6), then arcing out over the Atlantic Ocean and floating back to Earth under its parachutes. By all accounts, the test flight appears to have been a success.

SpaceX's Dragon crew capsule launches on an unmanned abort system test on May 6, 2015 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The test lasted less than 2 minutes."It was a great outcome, " SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk told reporters in a post-launch teleconference. "The important thing is that if there had been people on board, they would have been in great shape." [See photos from the Dragon launch abort test]

A SpaceX Dragon crew capsule prototype parachutes down to an ocean landing after a launch abort system test from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on May 6, 2015. Riding aboard was a human-shaped dummy.The Dragon was expected to reach an altitude of nearly 5, 000 feet (1, 524 meters) under the power of its eight SuperDraco launch abort engines, which are built directly into the side of the capsule. "What SpaceX is doing is certainly unique, " said Jon Cowart, NASA's commercial crew program manager, of the company's decision to mount its SuperDraco engines on the sides of Dragon. "It's definitely revolutionary in that regard."

SpaceX's first Dragon crew capsule floats in the Atlantic Ocean, its parachutes nearby, after an unmanned launch abort system test from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on May 6, 2015.A SpaceX Dragon crew capsule prototype streaks into the sky during a launch abort system test on May 6, 2015 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Credit: NASA TV

SpaceX's Dragon crew capsule launches on an unmanned abort system test on May 6, 2015 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The test lasted less than 2 minutes.
Credit: SpaceX

Nearly 270 sensors recorded data during the test flight, which blasted off at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT). SpaceX placed a human-shaped dummy in one of Dragon's seven seats to measure how the abort test, which was expected to pull up to 4.5 Gs, would affect a real astronaut.

"It went from 0 to 100 mph in 1.2 seconds. So that's pretty zippy, " Musk said of the test flight, which peaked at a max speed of 345 mph (555 km/h). The dummy appeared to have fared well during the brief flight, he added.


Source: www.space.com

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