SpaceX has completed a static fire test of the Falcon 9 booster that will be utilized for the Crew Dragon in-flight abort test. The test is scheduled to be launched on January 18 and is the final milestone before the spacecraft is cleared for its maiden crewed mission.
The flight-proven Falcon 9 booster that is set to be utilized for Saturday’s in-flight abort test completed a short static fire of its nine Merlin engines just after 15:00 UTC. Following the test, SpaceX officials confirmed in a tweet that it had been completed successfully and revealed the January 18 launch date.
Once launched from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, the Falcon 9 booster will follow a standard mission profile. Approximately 88 seconds into the flight, a simulated problem will trigger the Crew Dragon’s abort system which will, in turn, fire the spacecraft’s eight SuperDraco engines pulling it clear of the booster. The spacecraft’s four main parachutes will then be deployed in preparation for splashdown off the coast of Florida several dozen kilometers from the launchpad.
The Crew Dragon that is set to be utilized for Saturday’s test had originally been earmarked for the maiden crewed mission. Initially, the spacecraft recovered from the maiden uncrewed test flight in March 2019 was expected to be used for the test. However, an anomaly during a static fire test of the spacecraft resulted in its complete destruction.
Following the destruction of the Demo-1 Crew Dragon, an investigation was launched which ultimately lead to a redesign of the spacecraft. Despite this process, SpaceX was able to complete the investigation, redesign the spacecraft, and implement the changes in the Demo-2 spacecraft in just six months.
The in-flight abort test is the final hurdle SpaceX is required to clear before launching the first crewed mission to the International Space Station. The test is also arguably the most important as it validates the spacecraft’s ability to safely extract astronauts from any issues that may occur with the launch vehicle.