SpaceX has blown up a rocket to test an astronaut escape system as part of the company’s final trial before it can fly manned missions.
A Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral on Sunday – a day later than originally scheduled due to bad weather -and was attached to a Dragon crew capsule containing two mannequins.
To test the emergency abort system, the capsule boosted off from the Falcon 9 just over a minute later as the rocket deliberately shut off its engines and descended into a fiery blast.
The remaining capsule, which SpaceX hopes will eventually carry astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken to the International Space Station, then released several parachutes and splashed down into the Atlantic Ocean.
Image: The Falcon 9 rocket was carrying the Dragon crew capsule
Controllers at SpaceX’s headquarters in California were heard cheering throughout the live broadcast of the nine-minute mission, which appeared to go well.
In a tweet minutes before lift-off, company CEO Elon Musk highlighted the “risky” stakes, adding: “It’s pushing the envelope in so many ways.”
SpaceX now hopes its next mission flying the Dragon capsule will have astronauts inside, and would mark the first time since 2011 NASA astronauts have launched from the US after the end of the space shuttle programme.
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NASA’s commercial crew program manager, Kathy Lueders, said Sunday’s test was “our last open milestone” ahead of the manned missions that she says could begin in two months.
Dragon high altitude, supersonic abort test is a risky mission, as it’s pushing the envelope in so many ways
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 19, 2020
Meanwhile, the three-time recycled Falcon 9 rocket was destroyed as it crashed into the sea on Sunday, despite the company’s usual procedure of recovering its boosters.
“That’s the main objective of this test, is to show that we can carry the astronauts safely away from the rocket in case anything’s going wrong,” SpaceX’s Benji Reed, director of crew mission management, said.
He added: “This test is very important to us … a huge practice session.”
Source : Sky News