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SpaceX passes Crew Dragon test that previously ended in an explosion

NASA and SpaceX can breathe a sigh of relief after the Crew Dragon spacecraft survived a series of fiery engine tests.

- 01:25

Crew Dragon's latest static fire engine test appeared to go well.


SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft is making progress toward carrying actual human astronauts to the International Space Station. 

The Crew Dragon completed a series of static-fire engine tests on Wednesday, NASA announced. The tests fired up the capsule's thrusters, which are used to maneuver in orbit and also to push Dragon away from the Falcon 9 rocket in case of an emergency after liftoff.

This was a particularly tense moment for SpaceX and NASA. Similar engine tests in April led to an explosion and loss of a Crew Dragon capsule. That accident delayed the Crew Dragon program's hope of delivering astronauts to the ISS in 2019. SpaceX redesigned parts of the system to prevent a similar anomaly. It seems to have worked.

NASA's Commercial Crew program tweeted a look at the test and said the next steps will involve reviewing the data, performing hardware inspections and establishing a launch date for an in-flight abort test.

The in-flight abort test will mark a major milestone for Crew Dragon, which needs to prove it can handle a launch emergency before humans get on board. SpaceX has also been testing the capsule's parachute system

Both SpaceX and Boeing are working with NASA to launch astronauts from US soil for the first time since the end of the space shuttle era in 2011.   

SpaceX founder Elon Musk and NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine are hopeful Crew Dragon will launch with astronauts to the ISS in early 2020. That's assuming all of the safety testing goes according to schedule. This latest test is an encouraging sign.

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