Spaceflight Insider

SpaceX poised to take large step toward human space flight

SpaceX is planning to conduct the "in flight abort" test of its crew-rated Dragon spacecraft on Saturday, January 18. Image Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX is planning to conduct the “in flight abort” test of its crew-rated Dragon spacecraft on Saturday, January 18. Image Credit: SpaceX

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – SpaceX is targeting Saturday, January 18 at 8:00 a.m. ET for the In-Flight Abort test of its Crew Dragon spacecraft. This test will serve as a crucial final milestone in proving Crew Dragon’s ability to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

As is the case with all flights of their Falcon 9 family of rockets, SpaceX performed a full-duration static fire test on Saturday, January 11. of the booster to be used for the In-flight abort. This allowed launch teams to assess the performance of the launch vehicle as it was cryogenically fueled.

The in-flight abort test is expected to last just under two minutes and is meant to test the effectiveness of the SuperDraco thrusters to propel Dragon to safety in the unlikely event of an anomaly during liftoff. Flight controllers have a launch window of about four hours (between 8 a.m. and noon) in which to carry out the test.

Liftoff is expected to begin nominally. Once the vehicle reaches Max-Q, or the area of maximum aerodynamic at about 1 minute 30 seconds after liftoff, Falcon 9’s nine Merlin Engines will shut off. Crew Dragon’s automated abort system should sense the complete loss of thrust in the launch vehicle, triggering the ignition of its SuperDraco thrusters. Once the Dragon capsule is a safe distance from the doomed booster, the vehicle’s trunk will be released, and the capsule will use a series of attitude control thrusters to align itself upright. The capsules drogue and main chutes will deploy sequentially, safely bringing Dragon to a safe speed in order to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean.

The test is expected to draw droves of crowds to the space coast. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will open early to allow for visitors to view the launch just outside of the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit. Launch viewing and bleacher seating will be on a first come/first served basis. Once the Complex has reached its guest capacity it will no longer be allowing visitors.

Several areas in and around the Cape Canaveral area will be closing to comply with the launch safety zone. State Road 3 from Gate 2 News Media Pass and Identification Building 405 will close to the public at 4 a.m. This means that access to the Kennedy Space Center and the Visitor Complex will be limited to authorized personnel only beginning at 4 a.m. until after the launch is complete. NASA Causeway between U.S. 1 and Gate 3 will also be closed to the general public.

Video courtesy of SpaceX





Having a life-long interest in crewed space flight, Desforges’ passion materialized on a family vacation in 1999 when he was able see the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-96. Since then, Desforges has been an enthusiast of space exploration efforts. He lived in Orlando, Florida for a year, during which time he had the opportunity to witness the flights of the historic CRS-4 and EFT-1 missions in person at Cape Canaveral. He earned his Private Pilot Certificate in 2017, holds a degree in Aviation Management, and currently works as an Operations Analyst in the aviation industry in Georgia.

Reader Comments

“close to the public at 8:30 a.m” ?? That’s after the start of the launch window! Or did you mean 8:30am Friday? 6:30 am Saturday? Please clarify.
PS – I’ll be flying off the coast in a commercial jet at 8am, I’ll try to get some shots (little chance, but what the heck!)

One thought has been nagging me: I don’t recall Mercury, Gemini or Apollo doing IFA tests? And it appears Boeing is not having to do one either. So why are Spacex? Just asking.

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