In its pursuit of revolutionizing many aspects of the space industry, SpaceX has never been shy about its failures. In fact, it’s made a habit of celebrating them at every opportunity, casually poking fun at all of its own shortcomings, many of which resulted in rockets exploding when they definitely weren’t supposed to.
Next week, a SpaceX rocket is going to explode again, only this time it will be on purpose. The company is currently planning an in-flight abort test for January 18th which will see a SpaceX Falcon 9 detonate safely over the Atlantic Ocean.
The test is vitally important to SpaceX’s Crew Dragon development, as it will demonstrate that the crew module can safely escape a failing rocket. It’s systems like this that will keep crew members safe in the event of a real emergency, and it’s incredibly important that SpaceX gets it right.
For the test, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 will launch from Kennedy Space Center and travel skyward for a period of just under 90 seconds. At that point, the Crew Dragon will initiate its escape and the Falcon 9 will explode on command. The crew module will then come to rest in the Atlantic Ocean.
Crew Dragon is SpaceX’s contribution to NASA’s Commercial Crew program. Both SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner are expected to be the vehicles that NASA will rely on for hauling astronauts to and from the International Space Station, but the development and delivery of both vehicles to NASA is already well behind schedule.
A successful abort test will go a long way toward demonstrating that SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is ready to begin hauling human astronauts. As SpaceX is well known for doing, the company will host a live stream of the launch and testing, so we’ll all get a chance to watch SpaceX blow up a rocket live, and on purpose.