"Uh oh" is the last thing you'd want to hear in your headset at T minus 0 of a rocket launch, but here's a look at what SpaceX astronauts will see after that interjection.
Imagine this scenario: You and your astronaut colleagues are strapped into the seats of SpaceX's new Crew Dragon, and its only moments before liftoff. You've psyched yourself up and you're ready. The countdown reaches zero, the engines ignite, acceleration pushes you down into your seat and suddenly you hear the words "Uh oh..." over your headset.
A moment of dread, to be certain.
However, the above video - SpaceX's latest release from their May 6 "Pad Abort Test" launch - reveals exactly what you'd see in the aftermath of that interjection. Rather than your life flashing before your eyes, this "point-of-view" video shows the dizzying, roller-coaster ride you'd be in for as the capsule blasts away from the booster rocket, jettisons its trunk and deploys its emergency parachutes to take you back down to Earth for a splashdown in the ocean.
If you'd been sitting in the capsule at the moment it blasted off from the launch pad, you'd have experienced at least 4 g's of acceleration (4 times what you normally feel from the pull of Earth's gravity), as the capsule went from 0-160 km/h in 1.2 seconds, and reached a maximum speed of over 550 km/h before gravity dragged it back down to Earth.
There was no rocket underneath the capsule in this test simply because it wasn't needed for the simulation.
The launch was performed using the same 8 SuperDracos thrusters that the Crew Dragon will use to make a soft touchdown landing upon its return to Earth in future missions. Propelling the capsule more than a kilometre above the ground, this test simulated how the Dragon would break away from a malfunctioning booster rocket, to carry its crew to safety.
Not the First, but Likely the Best
Although this is, quite possibly, the most sophisticated launch abort system to date, it isn't the first.
Some rockets, such as the Russian Vostok and American Gemini systems, strapped the astronauts into ejection seats, and each individual would parachute down if evacuation was necessary.
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