Spaceflight Insider

Falcon 9 and evacuation procedures mark the latest steps for Commercial Crew Program

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for Commercial Crew Progam undergoes a test fire at McGregor Texas photo credit SpaceX

SpaceX has successfully test fired the rocket that will be used on the first test flight of the company’s Commercial Crew Program Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon duo. Photo Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX took another step forward in its commercial crew program (CCP) with the static test fire in McGregor, Texas of one of their Falcon 9 rocket’s that has a pivotal role in returning US human spaceflight capabilities.

The Merlin 1D engine test fire was completed at the company’s test facilities and verified that the rocket’s first stage selected for use on the demonstration flight to the ISS. At present that mission is slated for January, 2019. The Falcon 9 Block 5 tapped for this flight is the company’s latest. After cleanup, the rocket will be prepped for travel to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida where it will be integrated with the Crew Dragon capsule for this flight.

Should SpaceX be successful with what has been dubbed Demo 1 –  the company plans to launch a crewed mission to the International Space Station as early as April 2019. From the very inception of the CCP safety has been one of the key factors those involved with the program have worked to ensure is ingrained into every aspect of the initiative. SpaceX is not alone in this.

As one might imagine, sending people to space is a complicated affair with a lot moving parts. Besides testing the launch vehicles and spacecraft themselves, the procedures required in the event of an anomaly are also being practiced.

One of these involved the U.S. Air Force’s 920th Rescue Wing and demonstrated how teams from different agencies would work together should an emergency occur at the launch pad. 

DoD, NASA and SpaceX personnel worked together on Thursday October 25 to practice necessary procedures should there be an emergency at Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A that required injured personnel to be evacuated.

The participating agencies included NASA, SpaceX and the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Human Space Flight Support Office. These groups utilized an array of assets including personnel simulating actual injuries, two HH-60G helicopters (from the 301st Rescue Squadron) four pararescuemen (PJ) (from the 308th) and two DoD flight surgeons.

“With our partners at NASA, these exercises are important in developing a foundational understanding of our capabilities and integrating our procedures to better the mission. While today’s exercise was generic, we will continue to build into more advanced rescue scenarios,” said Staff Sgt. Gregg Forshaw, 308th Rescue Squadron pararescueman said via an update posted by the 920th Rescue Wing. “Today is a great example of how we, as Citizen Airmen, provide our expertise, while reflecting on our long history of supporting the NASA. Any chance we can take in highlighting our tactical skills is valuable. Today’s mission focused on getting from the base to the scene, rapidly providing advanced medical support while keeping our patients stable, which is key in preparing for when this mission becomes real. This exercise was vital in determining time management and the treatments that we were able to perform on the casualties.”






Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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