Photo Credit USLaunchReport
There are few things that spaceflight fans are more excited about this month than SpaceX in flight abort test. Currently scheduled for January 18th, the inflight abort mission will test the Crew Dragon’s ability to carry the capsule and its human occupants far from the rocket in the event of a catastrophic failure. Luckily for us (and somewhat unluckily for booster B1046.4) the separation will occur during the moment of most aerodynamic pressure, or max Q, and ultimately mean the full first stage will likely explode.
Footage from the CRS-7 vehicle failure in June 2015 gives us insight to what we can expect.
The in flight abort mission is, by its proposed timeline, part aerospace test and part fireworks display. The launch and subsequent explosion will be viewable from all public viewing areas surrounding the Kennedy Space Center. Here’s what you can expect Saturday at 7:55am EST assuming there are no delays.
T-0, Falcon 9 topped with a pressurized Crew Dragon will launch from the pad.
T+01:23 the rocket will experience the point of maximum aerodynamic pressure exerted on the vehicle. The rocket will simulate an abort procedure. The Crew Dragon Capsule's 8 integrated Draco engines will ignite and begin to push the capsule and unpressurized trunk away from the first and second stage.
T+01:29 the first and second stage will likely succumb to the aerodynamic forces and begin to breakup. The falcon 9 will be roughly 11 miles above the ocean when this occurs.
T+02:05 the unpressurized trunk will be jettisoned at the apogee.
T+03:41 drogue shoots will deploy.
T+05:42 main shoot deployment will occur.
If all goes according to plan, the Crew Dragon capsule will soft land in the ocean where SpaceX’s recovery ship Go Searcher will quickly snatch her out of the water.
While everyone buzzes at the opportunity to witness SpaceX intentionally blow up a rocket, the aerospace company has taken great care to mitigate any safety or wildlife hazards. As stated in their FAA fillings, the company will immediately “mobilize a multi-layered debris recovery operation” to minimize the affected 2-20 mile projected debris zone.
Seen in charts filed with the FAA, SpaceX believes most of the debris will be down-shore, but they do maintain the ability to monitor and anticipate changes as they arise.
And in case you were worried, the loggerhead sea turtle has been considered and their critical habitat will be avoided.