Tomorrow morning SpaceX will test an in-flight abort of their Crew Dragon spacecraft during a launch of their Falcon 9 rocket. The 4-hour launch window for the launch opens at 8am ET and remains open until 12pm ET and are currently targeting the end of the window. The Falcon 9 will be launching with Crew Dragon from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This Falcon 9 previously support 3 mission prior to tomorrow’s 4th launch - SSO-A, Merah Putih, and the Bangabandhu-1 mission. This was the first block 5 booster to launch and it will be the last time this booster launches.
The abort will take place around 84 seconds after liftoff (1.4 minutes) where the spacecraft’s 8 SuperDraco engines will ignite and pull Dragon away from Falcon. After Dragon separates, the first stage’s main engines will shut down and it will succumb to aerodynamic forces and most likely fall apart - a fireball possible. Dragon will coast to an apogee of approximately 40km and then separate from the trunk and begin its descent toward the Atlantic Ocean. When conditions are met, the capsule’s drogue and main parachutes will deploy to safely land in the ocean where recovery crews will begin a recovery sequence. This flight includes the newly upgraded Mark 3 parachutes, which have completed over 80 tests and 10 multi-parachute tests, further helping prove the systems reliability. After recovery the spacecraft will be inspected and possibly be refurbished for future use with Cargo.
The SpaceX teams conducted a Dry Dress Rehearsal this morning, where the astronauts and teams practiced steps for the upcoming DM-2 mission. Weather is 90% go for tomorrow, but does not take into account the Ocean conditions and wind conditions needed for the recovery teams to complete their tasks. The Launch Escape System will be armed 2 minutes prior to propellant loading, just like any regular Crew Dragon mission. If there’s an issue with the Falcon 9 during fueling, as seen during the Amos-6 static fire test, the spacecraft could abort from the pad and carry the crew to safety. SpaceX conducted a pad abort test back in May of 2015 to prove that ability. While there’s no crew on this flight, there are 2 anamorphic mannequins loaded with sensors to be able to track the conditions the astronauts would feel during an abort, which should be no more than 4Gs of force.
Tomorrow is a very important test for SpaceX and the Commercial Crew program, once this task has been completed successfully (or within their margins) then they can start moving toward their second Demo Mission to the ISS, with astronauts on board. The Dragon spacecraft for that mission has just completed Heat Shield mating in Hawthrone, CA and will arrive in Florida around the end of this month.