SpaceX Flies In-Flight Abort Test for NASA, Paves Way to Crewed Flights This Year

SpaceX lofting their Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft on the In-Flight Abort Test for NASA from KSC on Jan 19, 2020. Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com

SpaceX has successfully pulled off a test mission it hopes it will never again have to execute for real: the catastrophic high-altitude failure of a Falcon 9 booster at one of its most critical phases of flight—the period of maximum aerodynamic turbulence, colloquially known as “Max Q”—and the separation and parachute-aided return to Earth of a Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Launched from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida at 10:30am EST Sunday, 21 January, 2.5 hours into a six-hour “window”, the mission was a great success, but spelled a sad end for SpaceX’s long-serving B1046 booster core, which was intentionally destroyed as part of the test.



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SpaceX Crew Dragon Inflight Abort Test Video

Video credit: SpaceX
SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule is due to be launched at 10:30am Eastern on 19th January (delayed from the 18th) aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. Approximately 90 seconds into the flight a failure will be simulated this will trigger the Launch Abort System which will pull the Crew Capsule from the ‘failing’ rocket and land it safely on 4 parachutes. In the mean time the Falcon 9 booster will disintegrate as it returns to Earth.

Check out our live Launch Tracker for more details

Weather Forces SpaceX to Push In-Flight Abort to NET Sunday

Crew Dragon atop Falcon 9 for the In-Flight Abort Test. Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com

UPDATE – NASA and SpaceX now are targeting 8 a.m. EST Sunday, Jan. 19, for launch. The abort test has a six-hour launch window. Teams are standing down from today’s launch attempt due to poor splashdown and recovery weather.

For tomorrow’s launch attempt, meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict a 60% chance of favorable weather toward the opening of the window with a 40% chance toward the end of the window. The primary concerns for launch day being the thick cloud layer and flight through precipitation rule during the launch window.



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Boeing's Starliner 'Calypso' Returns to KSC Following Orbital Flight Test

Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule from the recent Orbital Flight Test, inside the company’s C3PF processing facility at Kennedy Space Center on Jan 15, 2020, fresh back from New Mexico where the spacecraft landed on Dec 22, 2019. Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner crew capsule which recently flew the Orbital Flight Test mission for NASA is now back at its homeport at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where Boeing is now putting the spacecraft through an extensive post-flight analysis and processing.

The company invited AmericaSpace and other media to visit the capsule and speak with program managers on Jan 15, outlining some of the work ahead as they and NASA work together to inspect and process the vehicle, mine data and determine the next step towards crewed flight.



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The Real Mission Impossible: Remembering STS-61C's Quest for Space

The opening weeks of each year are always tinged with sadness for America’s space program, as the nation observes a triplet of cruel anniversaries: the 1967 loss of Apollo 1 astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee in a fire on Pad 34, the 1986 disaster which engulfed the Challenger Seven in the skies above Cape Canaveral and, more recently, but no less painfully, the 2003 destruction of Columbia as her own seven-strong crew returned from a highly successful research mission in low-Earth orbit.

Yet at the dawn of the New Year in 1986, as the 51L astronauts trained for a mission they would never get to fully execute, another crew came to edge of disaster not once, but twice. Forget Tom Cruise. Columbia’s almost-ill-fated Mission 61C in January 1986 was the “real” Mission Impossible.



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NASA, SpaceX Target Jan 18 for Major In-Flight Abort Test of Crew Dragon

Falcon 9 launching to space (left) at about the same point in ascent where the Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort Test will occur (right is Crew Dragon undergoing testing) Photo (left): John Studwell / AmericaSpace.com (right credit SpaceX)

SpaceX already kicked off America’s new decade of spaceflight recently with a picture-perfect launch of their Starlink-2 mission, but their next flight is far more important, because it will be the final major hurdle before NASA certifies SpaceX to begin flying astronauts on their Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon to and from the International Space Station (ISS) beginning later this year.

SpaceX has already flown an uncrewed test to and from the ISS, and tested the spacecraft’s ability to abort from the rocket and launch pad in the event of a ground emergency, but now they will actually launch the capsule to demonstrate its in-flight abort capability, simulating an ascent emergency where the spacecraft would abort safely away to escape from a failing rocket during launch.



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NASA's TESS Space Telescope Finds Its First Earth-Sized Exoplanet in Habitable Zone and a World With Two Suns

TESS Mission’s First Earth-size World in Star’s Habitable-Zone. Video Credit: NASA Goddard

NASA’s newest exoplanet-hunting space telescope, TESS, has already been making some exciting discoveries, and now two more have just been announced: its first Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of its star and its first planet orbiting two stars.



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NASA's First 'Artemis' Moon Rocket Loaded for Trip to Stennis to Begin Major Test Fire Campaign

Artemis 1 SLS Core Stage Rolls Out of Michoud Assembly Facility. Photo: NASA

On Wednesday, NASA and its Space Launch System (SLS) partners reached a major milestone with the completion and roll out of the 212 foot (64.62 m) long Artemis 1 SLS Core Stage from the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF), loading it onto the Pegasus barge for delivery to nearby Stennis Space Center where it will soon begin a major testing campaign, before being sent to Florida next year for its inaugural launch from Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39B to send Orion around the moon & back home.

For those who brought the SLS from concept to a reality, it must bring a well-earned sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.



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SpaceX Kicks Off Ambitious 2020 Manifest with Starlink-2 Launch

Falcon 9 soaring from Cape Canaveral with Starlink-2 for SpaceX on Jan 6, 2019. Photo: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace.com

SpaceX has successfully flown the 80th fully-successful mission of Falcon 9 heritage hardware, with the spectacular Monday evening liftoff of the first U.S. launch of the 2020s. The record-tying, four-times-used B1049 core—teamed with a sparkling-new second stage and laden with a stack of 60 Starlink low-orbiting internet communications satellites—the mission took flight from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., during an instantaneous “window” at 9:19 p.m. EST.

It marks the dawn of what SpaceX anticipates will be an ambitious year, with perhaps more launches in the coming 12 months than ever before, including a new Starlink batch every two weeks.



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SpaceX Falcon 9 Starlink-2 Launch Video

Watch the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the third batch of Starlink satellites into space.
Launch took place at 9:19pm Eastern 6th Jan 2020 (2:19 GMT on the 7th)
Video credit: SpaceX