|Names||SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test|
|Mission type||Technology demonstration|
|Mission duration||8 minutes and 54 seconds|
|Apogee||42 km (138,000 ft) |
|Spacecraft||Crew Dragon C205|
|Spacecraft type||Crew Dragon|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||19 January 2020, 15:30:00 UTC|
|Rocket||Falcon 9 Block 5 (B1046.4)|
|Launch site||Kennedy Space Center, LC-39A|
|End of mission|
|Landing date||19 January 2020, 15:38:54 UTC|
|Landing site||Atlantic Ocean|
Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort Test mission patch
SpaceX Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort Test (also known as Crew Dragon Launch Escape Demonstration) was a successful test of the SpaceX Dragon 2 abort system, conducted on 19 January 2020. It was the final assessment for the Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 launch system before they would be certified to carry humans into space. Booster B1046.4 and an uncrewed capsule C205 were launched from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) on a suborbital trajectory, followed by an in-flight abort of the capsule at max Q and supersonic speed. The test was carried out successfully: the capsule pulled itself away from the booster before it broke apart, and landed safely.
See also: Launch escape system
The in-flight abort test was envisioned as a separation and abort scenario in the troposphere at transonic velocities during max Q, where the vehicle experiences maximum aerodynamic pressure. SpaceX Dragon 2 would use its SuperDraco abort engines to push itself away from the Falcon 9 after an intentional premature engine cutoff. The vehicle would reorient, deploy parachutes and soft-land in the Atlantic Ocean. Earlier, this test had been scheduled before the uncrewed orbital test, however, SpaceX and NASA considered it safer to use a flight representative capsule rather than the test article from the pad abort test. The flight would have launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base SLC-4E onboard a modified three engine Falcon 9, which was possibly F9R Dev2.
After the change of plan, the test would have used the C204 capsule from Demo-1, however, C204 was destroyed in an explosion during a static fire testing on 20 April 2019. Capsule C205, originally planned for Demo-2, replaced C204 in the In-Flight Abort Test; C206 was subsequently used for Demo-2. B1046, the first of the Falcon 9 Block 5 boosters to be built and flown, was the launch vehicle chosen to be expended for this occasion. It had its landing gear removed for its fourth and final mission, as it was expected to break up in mid-air shortly after the Dragon abort. The launch stack included a fully loaded second stage with a dummy weight instead of a functional vacuum engine.
Prior to the actual abort test, NASA and SpaceX conducted an all-in simulation of events leading up to an actual crew launch, including crew suit-up and travel to the pad. After delaying because of weather and visibility issues, Falcon 9 lifted off at 15:30:00 UTC, at Kennedy Space Center from LC-39A.
The stack simulated a malfunction on a nominal trajectory to the International Space Station. At T+1:25 minutes, the booster engines shut down and the capsule separated itself from the booster. As expected, the booster was then subjected to heavy aerodynamic forces and disintegrated at T+1:36 minutes; the second stage separated from the booster in one piece and it remained so until it impacted the ocean. The capsule followed its suborbital trajectory to apogee, and jettisoned its trunk and fins into the ocean. The capsule used its Draco thrusters to orient itself for descent, after which parachutes slowed down the craft. All major functions to be performed during abort were executed without anomalies. Capsule C205 splashed down at 15:38:54 UTC just off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean. The capsule's unpressurized trunk section survived reentry and was recovered by GO Searcher in more or less intact condition, being the only Dragon trunk to survive a reentry and to be recovered successfully.
Shotwell said the company is planning an in-flight abort test of the Crew Dragon spacecraft before the end of this year, where the vehicle uses its thrusters to separate from a Falcon 9 rocket during ascent. That will be followed in 2017 by two demonstration flights to the International Space Station, the first without a crew and the second with astronauts on board, and then the first operational mission.
In the updated plan, SpaceX would launch its uncrewed flight test (Demo-1), refurbish the flight test vehicle, then conduct the in-flight abort test prior to the crew flight test. Using the same vehicle for the in-flight abort test will improve the realism of the ascent abort test and reduce risk.This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.