SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule is the company’s answer to NASA’s demand for a crewed space vehicle that can be used to send astronauts to the International Space Station. Crew Dragon, along with Boeing’s Starliner, has seen its fair share of delays, but a test that’s scheduled for early Saturday morning will bring the hotly-anticipated spacecraft one big step closer to hauling human passengers.
It’s a launch abort test, and it’s scheduled to begin at 8:00 a.m. EST. As the name implies, this will not be a launch into space, but rather a test of how the Crew Dragon capsule keeps its passengers safe in the event of a rocket failure.
As SpaceflightNow reports, the weather looks like it will be favorable for the launch abort test, which will lift off from pad 39A sometime between 8:00 a.m. EST and 12:00 p.m. EST, a four-hour launch window.
For the test, SpaceX will intentionally lose one of its Falcon 9 rockets. Well, perhaps “lose” is the wrong term, since they’re going to intentionally blow it up. The idea here is to simulate what might happen during a real rocket failure. In a situation like that, the crew capsule has to be capable of pushing itself out and away from the failing rocket, ensuring that the astronauts inside remain safe.
The Crew Dragon will not be carrying any human passengers for this test, obviously, but NASA and SpaceX expect the spacecraft to behave exactly as it would if the vehicle was ferrying human travelers into space.
As is so often the case with SpaceX launches, the company will be live streaming the entire event from start to finish via its YouTube channel (embedded above). SpaceX staff will provide additional commentary on the mission as well as context regarding how things are playing out. Of course, the star of the show will be the rocket explosion, so we’ll be looking forward to that.