Today’s launch marks one of the last hurdles SpaceX must overcome before it can ferry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The Crew Dragon launch escape demonstration will test the spacecraft’s ability to carry astronauts to safety in the event of a catastrophic failure.
Although no astronauts will be onboard the Dragon today, the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the capsule into orbit is expected to disintegrate in the process.
The Elon Musk-owned company is looking to launch during a four-hour window of opportunity that opens at 1pm GMT (8am EST).
On Friday, the US Air Force gave SpaceX a 90 percent chance of favourable launch conditions.
In the event of weather spoiling today’s launch, SpaceX has a backup window on Sunday and Monday from 1pm GMT (8am EST).
- SpaceX: Elon Musk risks astronomers’ ire at Starlink satellite launch
How to watch the SpaceX launch live online today:
The Crew Dragon will blast off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The launch will be simultaneously broadcast live online by SpaceX and NASA.
Starting about 20 minutes before lift-off, you can tune in to the above YouTube video, courtesy of SpaceX.
The rocket manufacturer said yesterday: “Tomorrow’s test will demonstrate Crew Dragon’s ability to separate from Falcon 9 and carry astronauts to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency on ascent.”
SpaceX launch timeline:
Weather permitting, Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon will lift off from Florida at 1pm GMT (8am EST).
SpaceX designed Crew Dragon to be one of the safest human spaceflight systems
The rocket will then follow a trajectory bound for the ISS but the Dragon will trigger a launch escape scenario to simulate an emergency.
The capsule’s powerful SuperDraco engines will kick-in about 90 seconds after launch to guide the capsule towards safety.
At the same time, the reusable Falcon 9 will plummet towards the planet, where it is expected to disintegrate in the atmosphere.
SpaceX said: “Following Crew Dragon’s separation, Falcon 9 is expected to aerodynamically break up offshore over the Atlantic Ocean.
NASA researchers in Iceland looking to prove aliens exist [INSIGHT]
‘Glowing object’ caught on NASA stream: ‘UFOs are real’ [VIDEO]
NASA: Astronaut snaps eerie alien landscape Where is it? [PICTURES]
- Space tourism poll: 14 million Britons want to travel into space
“Expected breakup time will vary due to a number of factors, including winds and expected minor variations in vehicle attitudes and positions, but could occur shortly after separation or upon reentry from Earth’s upper atmosphere.
“In either scenario, a dedicated team of SpaceX Falcon 9 recovery personnel will be staged and ready to begin recovering debris immediately after breakup.”
The Dragon will drift to its highest orbit – apogee – then fire its engines once more to guide the spacecraft towards Earth.
Splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean is expected about 10 minutes after launch.
SpaceX said: “As part of the Dragon recovery operation, Air Force Detachment-3 personnel will work with the SpaceX recovery team to observe Crew Dragon and practice their initial approach to the spacecraft in the open ocean, mimicking an actual rescue operation before the SpaceX team recovers Crew Dragon for return to Cape Canaveral.”
What is the Crew Dragon launch escape demonstration?
Since President Barack Obama cancelled the Space Shuttle programmed in 2011, NASA has relied on its Russian partners to send astronauts into orbit.
The space agency would hire seats on Russian Soyuz rockets, racking up a hefty sum over the years.
As of July 2019, NASA has spent up to £2.99billion ($3.9billion) on flying US astronauts to the ISS.
In a bid to return spaceflight to American soil, NASA has tasked SpaceX and Boeing with designing and testing spacecraft that can safely ferry astronauts to and from the ISS.
But before SpaceX can start flying humans into space, the rocket manufacturer has to complete a long safety checklist for NASA.
The company said: “SpaceX designed Crew Dragon to be one of the safest human spaceflight systems ever built.
“To date, the company has completed more than 700 tests of Crew Dragon’s SuperDraco engines, which will power the spacecraft away from Falcon 9 and carry crew to safety at any point during ascent or in the unlikely event of an emergency on the launch pad.
“In May 2015, SpaceX completed a pad abort demonstration of Crew Dragon.”
In March 2019, the company completed an “end-to-end” test that saw an unmanned Dragon dock with the ISS.
Source: Read Full Article