SpaceX's Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort Test Will Now Launch No Earlier Than Jan. 11 - Space.com - Canada News Media
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SpaceX's Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort Test Will Now Launch No Earlier Than Jan. 11 – Space.com

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SpaceX will now launch a major in-flight abort system test of its Crew Dragon spacecraft for astronauts no earlier than Jan. 11, a week later than previously announced.

The uncrewed test flight, called an In-Flight Abort Test, will test a vital safety system designed to protect astronauts during a launch emergency. It was initially expected to liftoff sometime this month, but NASA announced last week that the mission would launch no earlier than Jan. 4. That target has since slipped another week. 

NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Jan. 11, 2020, for a critical In-Flight Abort Test of the Crew Dragon spacecraft from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, pending U.S. Air Force Eastern Range approval,” NASA officials wrote in an update Wednesday (Jan. 18). NASA did not give a reason for the date change. 

Video: Watch SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Abort System in Close-Up Action

SpaceX fired a Crew Dragon’s escape engines in preparation for a milestone test. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX’s In-Flight Abort test flight, called IFA for short, will launch a Crew Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket and intentionally trigger the spacecraft’s launch abort system in mid-flight. That system, a network of eight SuperDraco abort engines, will pull the Crew Dragon free of its Falcon 9 booster to simulate an emergency escape and parachute back to Earth. 

The abort system is vital to safeguard astronauts during launch. In October 2018, the launch abort system on a Russian Soyuz rocket carried NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin to safety when their booster failed during flight

“The demonstration of Crew Dragon’s launch escape system is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and is one of the final major tests for the company before NASA astronauts will fly aboard the spacecraft,” NASA officials wrote. 

Related: Emergency Launch Abort Systems of SpaceX and Boeing Explained

During the upcoming test,  SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying an uncrewed Crew Dragon, then activate the capsule’s launch abort system in mid-flight. If all goes well, the Crew Dragon will fire its SuperDraco engines to rip the capsule free of the Falcon 9, deploy parachutes and splash down in the Atlantic Ocean. 

“The In-Flight Abort Test follows a series of static fire engine tests of the spacecraft conducted Nov. 13 near SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida,” NASA officials wrote. “SpaceX will also conduct a static fire test of its Falcon 9 rocket ahead of the In-Flight Abort Test.”

SpaceX is one of two commercial companies (Boeing is the other) building private space taxis to fly NASA astronauts to and from the space station. The company launched its first uncrewed Crew Dragon test flight to the station in March of this year, but the spacecraft used on that flight was destroyed during a failed ground-based abort system test in April. 

SpaceX has since identified the cause of that failure and made corrections that led to a series of successful abort system ground tests in recent months. 

Boeing, meanwhile, is making progress on its own spacecraft, a capsule called Starliner that launches on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Last month, the company successfully performed a pad abort test of its Starliner capsule. 

Today (Dec. 20), Boeing launched its first uncrewed Starliner flight to the International Space Station. However, about 15 minutes after liftoff, the spacecraft experienced an “anomaly” that prevented it from entering the correct orbit. Rather than spending a week at the space station as planned, Starliner will spend about 48 hours in orbit before returning to Earth via a parachute-assisted landing at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The mishap could delay Boeing’s plans to launch a crewed flight test, which is currently scheduled to take place in mid-2020. 

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom and Facebook.

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Watch as SpaceX’s newest spacecraft attempts to escape a fake rocket emergency – The Verge

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On Sunday, SpaceX is launching one of its last big flight tests for NASA, one that could ultimately pave the way for the company to fly people to space later this year. For this flight, SpaceX will test out the emergency escape system on its new passenger spacecraft — and will probably destroy a Falcon 9 rocket in the process.

The vehicle that SpaceX is testing is its new Crew Dragon capsule, a passenger spacecraft the company has been developing for NASA as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew program. Before NASA will let its astronauts fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, the agency wants to know that the vehicle can keep people safe in the unlikely event of an emergency. That’s what this weekend’s test, known as an in-flight abort test, is all about. SpaceX plans to mimic a failed rocket launch and show that its Crew Dragon can survive and protect its precious inhabitants inside. “We want to practice, practice, practice,” Benji Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX, said during a press conference on Frida. “We test like we fly, and we want to practice like we fly.”

Embedded in the hull of the Crew Dragon are eight SuperDraco engines, designed to fire if the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the capsule starts to suffer some major failure. The SuperDracos can propel the spacecraft up and away from the decaying rocket. Once the Crew Dragon is at a safe distance, the capsule would then deploy its parachutes and lower itself gently into the Atlantic Ocean. A recovery boat would then meet up with the capsule and rescue the crew inside.

SpaceX has tested out this escape system before, but only when the Crew Dragon was on the ground. The company and NASA want to see this process in action while the capsule is zooming into the sky on top of a rocket. That’s when the system will be needed most if a worst-case scenario happens in the future. So this weekend, SpaceX will launch one of its used Falcon 9 rockets — which has been to space and back three times before — with a Crew Dragon on top. At 84 seconds after launch, when the rocket and capsule are feeling the most stress during flight, the SuperDracos will fire and the rocket’s main engines will cut off. The Crew Dragon will then go through the entire escape routine.

SpaceX definitely expects to lose its Falcon 9 rocket during this test. The vehicle should break apart on the way back down to Earth thanks to the speed it’s going and the weather conditions. As for how it will be destroyed, that’s unclear. But the rocket will be fully fueled, which means some of that propellant might light up. “We expect there to be some sort of ignition and probably a fireball of some kind,” said Reed.

No people will be on board this flight, though SpaceX will have two smart dummies inside the Crew Dragon to gather data about how the maneuver would affect future crew members. Both the dummies and vehicle will be recovered by boat after the test.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is scheduled to take off from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida on Sunday, during a six-hour launch window between 8AM and 2PM ET. SpaceX will wait to launch until they see good weather at both the launch site and the place in the Atlantic Ocean the Crew Dragon is expected to fall. Having those weather conditions line up may take some time. “Y’all may be waiting for a while, while we’re trying to find the perfect time for us to be able to conduct this test,” Kathy Lueders, the program manager for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said during the press conference. SpaceX was originally supposed to launch on Saturday but had to stand down due to bad weather at both locations.

If this test goes well, then the next big flight of the Crew Dragon will have people on board. The date for that highly anticipated trip is still very much an open question. The Crew Dragon that will be used for that test is slated to arrive in Florida by the end of this month, according to SpaceX. And after the in-flight abort, SpaceX and NASA will need to review all the data and do additional paperwork, and SpaceX still has to do some more tests of its parachutes, which it upgraded last year. “We are really human certifying these Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9,” said Lueders, adding that “making sure we’ve dotted all the “I”s and crossed the “T”s before our crewed demonstration mission is very important.”

SpaceX’s coverage will begin 20 minutes prior to takeoff, while NASA’s coverage is set to begin 15 minutes beforehand. Since liftoff time could change a lot, be sure to check both SpaceX and NASA’s twitter feed for updates.

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The Morning After: Counting down to SpaceX's next Crew Dragon test – Engadget

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Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Welcome to your weekend! The first week back after CES has been a long one, but now it’s time to relax. Below there are some highlighted stories from Friday and the rest of the week, but the news I needed to see is that a rumored “Pro Mode” for MacBooks could bring back the illicit thrill of a Turbo Button that’s been missing since the days of the 486.

This weekend we might see a dramatic test from SpaceX, however the in-flight abort test requires conditions that are right both for its landing and the Crew Dragon’s return to Earth in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX is currently targeting a six-hour window on Sunday morning for the test, but also has a backup window on Monday if necessary.

Otherwise, sit back, catch up on a few highlight stories from this week and maybe check out Avenue 5 on HBO.

— Richard


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Drones with bird-like wings could fly in rougher winds.This pigeon-inspired drone bends its wings to make it more agile

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Devindra, Cherlynn and Senior Editor Nick Summers take a relaxing break from the madness of CES by diving into some of this week’s news, like the trailer for Japan’s Super Nintendo World park. They also question the wisdom of Sony abandoning E3 (yet again), and welcome Microsoft’s new Chromium-infused Edge browser. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Pocket Casts or Stitcher.


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Like Project xCloud, but from your home console.Microsoft’s Xbox Console Streaming preview goes global

Microsoft has been experimenting with streaming Xbox games to Android phones and tablets for a while as it looks for an answer to the PS4’s Remote Play. Now, after opening a limited beta late last year, all Xbox Insiders in countries that support Xbox One can have a go.


Update ASAP.Microsoft patched a major Windows 10 flaw discovered by the NSA

This week Microsoft issued patches for Windows 10 as well as Windows Server 2016 and 2019. However, it wasn’t a normal Patch Tuesday, because this time it addressed a flaw that had been uncovered by the NSA and could be used to exploit computers remotely or spy on and manipulate encrypted internet traffic. Disclosing the vulnerability so it can be fixed will hopefully stop it from leaking out, which is what happened in 2017 with the EternalBlue exploit.


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Bad weather forces delay of SpaceX simulated rocket failure test – CNBC

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Bad weather forced Elon Musk’s SpaceX to delay until Sunday a test in which it will destroy one of its own rockets in atrial of a crucial emergency abort system on an unmanned astronaut capsule.

The test, the company’s final milestone test before flying NASA astronauts from U.S. soil, had been planned to take place on Saturday.

SpaceX said in a Twitter post it was standing down from the Crew Dragon capsule test because of high winds and rough seas in the recovery area.

It was now looking at carrying out the test on Sunday, with a six-hour test window starting at 8 a.m. ET (1300 GMT).

Less than two minutes after liftoff from a launchpad in Florida, the Crew Dragon will fire on-board thrusters to eject itself off a Falcon 9 rocket mid-air, simulating an emergency abort scenario that will prove it can return astronauts to safety.

The test is crucial to qualify SpaceX’s astronaut capsule to fly humans to the International Space Station, which the National Aeronautics and Space Administration expects to come as soon as mid-2020. It follows years of development and delays as the United States has sought to revive its human spaceflight program through private partnerships.

NASA awarded $4.2 billion to Boeing and $2.5 billion to SpaceX in 2014 to develop separate capsule systems capable of ferrying astronauts to the space station from U.S. soil for the first time since NASA’s space shuttle program ended in 2011.

The space agency has since relied on Russian spacecraft to hitch rides to the space station.

In the test, the Falcon 9 rocket’s boosters will shut down roughly 12 miles (19 km) above the ocean, a mock failure that will trigger Crew Dragon’s so-called SuperDraco thrusters to jet itself away at supersonic speeds of up to 1,500 miles per hour (2,400 kph).

The capsule will deploy three parachutes to slow its descent to water, carrying aboard two human-shaped test dummies dressed in motion sensors to collect valuable data on the immense g-force – the effect of acceleration on the body – imposed during abort.

The booster will free-fall and tumble back uncontrollably toward the ocean, SpaceX’s Crew Mission Management director Benji Reed said. “At some point we expect that the Falcon will start to break up.”

“Our Falcon 9 recovery forces will be standing by ready to go and recover as much of the Falcon as we can as safely as possible,” Reed said.

The in-flight abort test was originally scheduled to take place in mid-2019, but the timeline was delayed by nine months after one of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsules exploded in April on a test stand just before firing its launch abort thrusters, triggering a lengthy investigation.

SpaceX zeroed in on a previously unknown explosive reaction between a titanium valve and the capsule’s rocket fuel. Reed told Reuters SpaceX had completed the investigation within the last week.

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