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09:00 on the morning of Wednesday, May 6, 2015 the long awaited, highly anticipated pad abort test of SpaceX’s Dragon V2 crewed capsule prototype took flight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) where the company launches its Falcon 9 rocket.
Aside from the “wow factor” the nearly two minute pad abort test was a success. Upon ignition the 60,000 combined lbs. of thrust generated by the eight Super Draco engines violently rocketed the capsule and trunk off the launch platform to the tune of 6 G’s and reaching 100 mph in just 1.2 sec and a top speed of 345 mph where it reached an altitude of 1,187 m and traveled downrange 1,202 m as designed so the craft could reach the Atlantic for splashdown. Main parachute deployment came at 970 m as the craft and stowaway test dummy safely splashed down just off shore where they were met with two rescue boats as well as a recovery ship. SpaceX says that the dummy’s sensors revealed that had there been a live crew onboard, they would have been in great shape.
The Super Draco engines are built into the capsule itself vs. the industry standard of being placed on a tower atop the spacecraft. This launch abort design allows for aborts all the way to orbit if needed and to also use them to land back at Landing Complex 1 (LC-1) following a successful return from space.
This test helps pave the way for future tests to include an in-flight test scheduled for next year from Vandenberg AFB, CA and if all goes to plan, the first human flights in 2017.
SpaceX article on the test: http://www.spacex.com/news/2015/05/06/crew-dragon-completes-pad-abort-test
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