For SpaceX, the show must go on … The American launch company led by billionaire Elon Musk has successfully tested the Falcon 9 astronauts emergency ejection on Sunday a few moments after the launch from Cape Canaveral (about a minute and a half after the start of the flight). It was the last test before the planned dispatch of a NASA crew to the International Space Station (ISS). This test, which was originally scheduled for mid-2019 but was delayed after a Crew Dragon capsule exploded in April on a test bench, was crucial to qualify the capsule, which will transport astronauts to the ISS in mid-2020.
A very successful test, according to the boss of NASA
During the test, the Falcon 9 thrusters simulated a failure approximately 12 miles (19 km) above the ocean. Initial data indicated that the test had been “perfect”said Elon Musk at a press conference. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine argued a “very successful test”. The test demonstrated Crew Dragon’s ability to reliably transport a crew of astronauts safely in the unlikely event of a failure while ascending the Falon 9 launcher, SpaceX said on its site.
Crew Dragon’s eight SuperDraco engines successfully propelled the spacecraft away from Falcon 9 at supersonic speeds (over 400 mph). After separation, the Dragon cell was released and the spacecraft’s parachutes were deployed, first two parachutes, then the four upgraded Mark III parachutes. SpaceX has performed more than 80 tests of its parachute system. Finally, Dragon landed in the Atlantic Ocean and the teams managed to recover the spacecraft from the SpaceX recovery vessel.
Regain autonomy in space transport
NASA awarded $ 4.2 billion to Boeing and $ 2.5 billion to SpaceX in 2014 to develop separate capsule systems capable of transporting astronauts to the space station from American soil for the first time since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011. Since then, NASA had relied on the Russian spacecraft Soyuz for trips to the space station. The Americans wanted to regain autonomy in space transportation. Partly because of the crisis in bilateral relations with Russia.
Dragon is a spacecraft, designed to deliver both cargo and people to the ISS at first. It is the only spacecraft currently in flight capable of returning large quantities of goods to Earth. The first demonstration flight was launched on March 2, 2019. The Dragon spacecraft successfully docked at the space station before the scheduled date on March 3, 2019, becoming the first American spacecraft in history to dock. independently with the ISS. It is capable of carrying up to seven passengers to and from Earth, and beyond as Elon Musk wants.
On December 22, the Boeing Starliner capsule landed in New Mexico after failing to join the ISS, a target missed due to a navigation error. The capsule had been launched Friday from Florida with the mission to gain 25 hours later the ISS, in low Earth orbit. But a technical error prevented Starliner from staying the course after its separation from its rocket. The capsule finally landed on Sunday in the White Sands desert, without incident, after deploying its parachutes, six days ahead of schedule. A outcome that had prompted the leaders of NASA and Boeing to put the test failure into perspective.
“It went very well,” Boeing vice president Jim Chilton told reporters. “I think we will be collecting a lot more data as well as if the test had gone according to our plans,” said NASA boss Jim Bridenstine.
The first manned Starliner flight is planned, in theory, for 2020. Boeing is competing with SpaceX.