Watch The Next-Gen Crew

June 11, 2012 – 02:40 pm

UPDATE 08:30 a.m. EDT - Pad abort test window begins at 9 a.m. EDT, according to NASA.

SpaceX will perform a pad abort test early Wednesday morning, marking a critical step forward for its Crew Dragon spacecraft. The next-generation craft was selected by NASA to be used in the Commercial Crew Program that will transport astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA will livestream the pad abort test beginning at 6:35 a.m. EDT, with the window beginning at 7 a.m. EDT.

The pad abort test will evaluate SpaceX's system for keeping astronauts safe. The event will simulate a potential rocket failure and the pad abort system would be implemented to propel the spacecraft away from any danger. SpaceX describes it like an ejection seat, but for a craft. The abort system used by the Crew Dragon will allow the spacecraft to perform such a maneuver all the way into orbit and uses eight SuperDraco rocket engines built within the craft. The engines will be able to carry the Crew Dragon over 1, 600 feet away from the launchpad.

Within 21 seconds, the Crew Dragon's trunk is jettisoned and the spacecraft performs a slow descent. As the Dragon rotates, the spacecraft will deploy parachutes to stabilize and reduce its speed prior to splashdown. The entire process takes place in under two minutes.

SpaceX will perform a pad abort test on Wednesday. SpaceX

"This is what SpaceX was basically founded for, human spaceflight. The pad abort is going to show that we've developed a revolutionary system for the safety of the astronauts, and this test is going to show how it works. It's our first big test on the Crew Dragon, " Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of Mission Assurance with SpaceX, said in a statement. SpaceX will learn a lot from the test - timing of commands, the use of the SuperDraco engine rockets, actual trajector and internal and external environment data - that will be used to better ensure the safety of astronauts. A dummy onboard will be used to evaluate the gravitational load during the launch abort.


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