SpaceX Capsule Splashes Down off Florida After Intentional Rocket Failure Test

After months of anticipation, SpaceX's worthy new spacecraft, Crew Dragon, has reached its last major milestone in a multi-year test program.

NASA had planned for the two men to make a short stay in the space station during a flight that was primarily created to demonstrate the functions of the capsule. During a launch dress rehearsal Friday, Hurley and Behnken rode in a white Tesla Model X from Kennedy Space Center's crew quarters to the launch pad, their sleek white and black spacesuits matching the electric sports vehicle with wing-like doors.

There are presently six people on the station, but with planned crew rotations and a previously designed reduction in Soyuz flights, there will only be three people that includes NASA's astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin.

The next step will be for SpaceX and NASA to take a close look at the data collected by the flight abandonment test, including the information collected by two test dummies equipped with sensors that are aboard the Crew Dragon Sunday. If SpaceX's mission succeeds, its commercial contract with NASA to carry astronauts to space will become an agreement and it would also boost avenues such as space tourism for the country.

NASA astronauts have not launched from the US since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. It's expected to be the last major milestone in Crew Dragon's development program before the spacecraft is deemed ready to begin sending astronauts to space. The company is developing an orbital spacecraft called "Gaganyaan".

A successful emergency abandonment test will mark an important victory for SpaceX.

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Four large parachutes opened to brake its descent and splashdown in the ocean, where recovery teams were pre-positioned.

In March 2019, SpaceX successfully made a one-week round trip to the ISS with an unmanned Crew Dragon.

The successful test means SpaceX is poised to launch the first astronauts to the International Space Station from US soil since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. "Those are choices we are going to be making in the coming weeks", he stated.

The test is crucial to qualify the capsule to fly humans to the International Space Station, something NASA expects to come as soon as mid-2020. The company might have a better chance of completing the test on Monday as weather still remains a concern for tomorrow. SpaceX worked for the past nine months to address that issue and to finetune Crew Dragon's parachute design.

They scrambled toward Crew Dragon with the U.S. Air Force's Detachment 3 emergency rescue teams in tow - a vital part of the test to practice a rescue mission to retrieve astronauts from the capsule. Musk and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the next Crew Dragon could launch with a pair of NASA astronauts in the second quarter of this year - as early as April.

Two NASA astronauts are selected to be the first passengers for Crew Dragon: Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, both former military test pilots and space shuttle mission veterans.

  • Douglas Reid