We always hope things will go as planned during space travel, but reality has proven that is sadly not the case — so SpaceX’s new spacecraft is about to undergo a major test to see how it performs when everything goes wrong.
SpaceX plans to launch a Dragon capsule test vehicle early Wednesday morning from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in what has been dubbed a pad abort test, which will basically test the craft to see how it would perform if a critical problem occurred during launch. If the test is a success, the ship will not blow up — it will, instead, fly to 5,000 feet then have a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.
The plan is to basically fire off the spacecraft’s SuperDraco engines for a six-second burn estimated to generate 120,000 pounds of thrust that should push it out of harm’s way in the event of a catastrophic failure during the launch process. Along with seeing if that safety measure works, the company will also be tracking a ton of other data to see how the Dragon holds up.
SpaceX’s vice president of mission assurance Hans Koenigsmann called the test a critical step in the company’s quest toward manned spaceflight, and noted that a successful abort should prove the company has “developed a revolutionary system for the safety of the astronauts.”