Plan for success. Prepare for failure. SpaceX is setting out to prove a critical safety system will be able to save astronaut lives in the event of a launch emergency during ascent. The is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 18. This is a required step before NASA will allow astronauts to fly to the International Space Station in the SpaceX capsule as part of the .
NASA will livestream the event, with coverage starting at 4:45 a.m. PT on Saturday. SpaceX and NASA are targeting 5 a.m. PT for the launch, but the test has a four-hour launch window to work with.
The Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon are currently vertical at the launchpad. SpaceX tweeted a view of the crew-access arm stretching out to the capsule. The access arm is how future astronauts will board Crew Dragon, though this test flight will be uncrewed.
As of Friday, the weather forecast was 90% go for launch, but that only tells part of the story. SpaceX and NASA are also keeping an eye on the ocean to make sure conditions are good for recovering the crew capsule and any debris from the Falcon 9 in the water.
The weather and ocean conditions are expected to change throughout the launch window, so it’s a matter of the stars aligning before launch. Backup test opportunities are set for Sunday or Monday if Saturday doesn’t work out.
Crew Dragon will take a. The launch will take place at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, which will allow the rocket to break up over the Atlantic Ocean. It could be quite an eye-opening experience.
SpaceX shared an animated video showing how the test is expected to go.
If all goes well, the Crew Dragon capsule will separate from the rocket, deploy parachutes and float gently down to the water.
A scary Russian Soyuz launch in 2018 highlighted the importance of in-flight escape systems. Theand a NASA astronaut and Roscosmos cosmonaut returned safely to Earth after a mid-air rocket failure.
SpaceX successfully sent anin early 2019. The ultimate goal is to make a return trip with NASA astronauts on board. If the in-flight abort test works out, then the first launch of humans from US soil since the end of the space shuttle era should finally happen in 2020.
Originally published Jan. 14.