On Wednesday morning, a reduced SpaceX Dragon descent vehicle without a launch vehicle was flown over the Atlantic Ocean. The purpose of the test was to verify whether the astronauts could land safely in the event of an accident at launch.
The so-called “launch abort” test passed without people on board on the launch platform for Falcon 9 missiles located at the Air Force base at Cape Canaveral in Florida. A little to the south of it is the Kennedy Space Center, owned by NASA.
Currently, SpaceX is upgrading one of the old launch platforms for flight with a crew aboard the Dragon spacecraft. They are a modified version of the ships delivering cargo to the International Space Station under a contract with NASA.
Flight of the passenger version of Dragon lasted no more than two minutes. Eight SuperDraco jet engines located around the capsule were launched at 9 am EST. In less than 6 seconds, they burned more than one and a half tons of rocket fuel, and then turned off. The device continued to fly upwards for another 15 seconds, reaching a height of 1,400 meters above the level of the Atlantic Ocean. After that, the cargo compartment was thrown into the position of the heat shield, parachutes were also released to slow down before landing.
The tests went according to plan, but the engineers have yet to analyze the information collected from more than 200 onboard sensors, and the damage to the dummies that were in the cockpit. Then SpaceX plans to clear the salt water capsule and prepare it for testing in 2016.
During the next flight, which should start from the company's California platform at the Vandenberg cosmodrome, a bailout maneuver will be tested with the Falcon 9 accelerating rocket.
Recall that NASA has hired SpaceX and Boeing to deliver astronauts to the ISS since 2017, in order to break Russia's monopoly on flights with the transfer of the team.