Plan for success. Prepare for failure.
is setting out to prove a critical safety system will be able to save astronaut lives in the event of a launch emergency during ascent. This is a required step before
will allow astronauts to fly to the International Space Station in the SpaceX capsule as part of the Commercial Crew Program.
The Crew Dragon in-flight abort test, originally scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 18, has been rescheduled to Sunday, Jan. 19 due to "sustained winds and rough seas in the recovery area," according to SpaceX.
NASA will livestream the event, with coverage starting at 4:40 a.m. PT on Sunday, but this is subject to change. While SpaceX and NASA are looking at no earlier than 5 a.m. PT for the launch, they have planned a six-hour test window that could see the in-flight abort test occur as late as 11 a.m. PT.
The Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon are currently vertical at the launchpad. SpaceX tweeted a view of the crew-access arm stretching out to the capsule. The access arm is how future astronauts will board Crew Dragon, though this test flight will be uncrewed.
SpaceX and NASA have to watch the weather in the air, but are also worried about the conditions in the Atlantic for the crews recovering the capsule and any debris from the Falcon 9 in the water. It's a matter of the stars aligning before launch. A backup test opportunity is set for Monday if Sunday doesn't work out.
A scary Russian Soyuz launch in 2018 highlighted the importance of in-flight escape systems. The Soyuz system worked as designed and a NASA astronaut and Roscosmos cosmonaut returned safely to Earth after a mid-air rocket failure.
SpaceX successfully sent an uncrewed Crew Dragon to the ISS in early 2019. The ultimate goal is to make a return trip with NASA astronauts on board. If the in-flight abort test works out, then the first launch of humans from US soil since the end of the space shuttle era should finally happen in 2020.
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