SpaceX has completed a series of static fire tests of the Crew Dragon’s escape system to recertify it for flight. The tests were conducted near the SpaceX Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on November 13.
Testing began with a one-second firing of two of the spacecraft’s 16 Draco thrusters. In addition to being a part of the escape system, the Draco thrusters are used for on-orbit attitude control and maneuvering.
With the completition of the initial test phase, all eight SuperDraco thrusters were fired for a 9-second full-duration burn. This was followed immediately after by the firing of two Draco thrusters with the flaps on all eight SuperDraco thrusters closed. This procedure mimics the sequence that would be used to reorient the spacecraft during an in-flight abort to ensure a successful parachute deployment.
Earlier this year, during a similar set of static fire tests, the spacecraft experienced an anomaly that led to the destruction of the vehicle. Since then, the cause of the anomaly has been identified and the system redesigned to ensure it doesn’t occur again.
As a result of the incident and the redesign, SpaceX was required to have the spacecraft’s escape system recertified. It is hoped that today’s static fire tests will be sufficient to receive this recertification.
According to a November 13 press release, NASA and SpaceX will now review data from the tests and “perform detailed hardware inspections.” If no issues are discovered, a date for the pivotal in-flight abort test will be set. This is the last major hurdle before the first crews launch aboard the Crew Dragon.