Shortly after its launch on Sunday, SpaceX purposely blew up one of its Falcon 9 rockets, a last test before the private aerospace corporation was able to send NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.”We’re deliberately failing a launch vehicle to ensure that our abort device on the spacecraft that will be operating with our crews works, and so that’s a very, very unusual way for us to usually perform a mission,” Kathy Lueders, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, said at a news conference Friday. “So, this is a measure that is really significant.”
The in-flight abort test was planned to test the “escape capabilities” of the Crew Dragon spacecraft for astronauts, according to a NASA statement.
The SpaceX flight on Sunday was part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program.It comes just over a month after a separate NASA Commercial Crew launch, which was carried out in conjunction with Boeing, did not go as expected.
SpaceX used a launch escape of the Crew Dragon spacecraft from the Falcon 9 rocket as part of the evaluation to see whether the spacecraft could successfully detach from the rocket.
The Falcon 9 rocket then went on, taking a trajectory that was supposed to imitate a ride to the International Space Station before crashing in mid-air, as anticipated.
“We expect there to be some sort of ignition and probably a fireball of some kind, whether I would call it an explosion that you would see from the ground I don’t know, we’ll have to see what actually happens,” Benji Reed, the director of crew mission management at SpaceX, said at a news conference Friday. “But I wouldn’t be surprised and that wouldn’t be a bad outcome if that’s what we saw. “If this test is considered a success, SpaceX will be able to send American astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time since NASA’s Space Shuttle flight ended in 2011.SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted a week before the flight, “Critical test launch before flying astronauts is green on Jan 18.”Musk previously indicated in a tweet that he hopes to send a crew on the Dragon in 2020. NASA’s Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are tapped to be the first SpaceX Commercial Crew astronauts.
Musk confirmed in a tweet that he plans to put a crew on board the Dragon in 2020. The first SpaceX Commercial Crew astronauts would be NASA’s Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.
The NASA statement added that the launch on Sunday was planned to include “valuable evidence for NASA certifying SpaceX’s crew transportation system for transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station.”