SpaceX tests launch abort system
SpaceX has put its Dragon astronaut capsule through a practice abort. The demonstration simulated what would happen to the crewship in the event of a rocket failure. Wednesday's test was conducted at Cape Canaveral, and saw a test vehicle, carrying no humans, only a dummy, hurled skywards by a set of powerful in-built thrusters.
The Dragon ship was propelled to a safe distance, lowering itself softly into the Atlantic via three parachutes. SpaceX expects to start launching astronauts in 2017. It is one of two companies that have been contracted by the US space agency (Nasa) to develop vehicles to ferry people to and from the International Space Station (ISS). The other firm is Boeing.
Both have to demonstrate effective launch escape technologies for their rockets and capsules to receive certification. Only with the necessary assurance will Nasa permit its astronauts to climb aboard. SpaceX has elected to use a so-called pusher system on the Dragon.
Eight SuperDraco thrusters have been integrated into the side of the ship, and these fired in tandem for just over five seconds at the start of the test to hurl the ship up and to the east of the Cape.