The Spacex Dragon module simulated a major failure in its engines and performed an emergency bail-out procedure over NASA’s Cape Canaveral facility. The verdict? A success overall, but NASA will require a lot more work done before it risks one of its highly trained astronauts on a third-party vehicle.
The test lasted just under two minutes in total, assessing the capsule’s ability to get itself into a safe position for bail-out, and to there land softly enough to protect any human occupants. The capsule’s eight SuperDraco engines fired for just five seconds, producing for that period something like 120,000 pounds of thrust (or about 3% of the thrust of SpaceX’s enormous Falcon Heavy rocket). Aiming itself over the nearby Cape, the capsule lifted to about 5,000 feet. Here, it ditched the “trunk” section, and deployed parachutes, slowly descending nose-first toward the water.
SpaceX offers reliable launch services at prices 20 percent to 30 percent lower than its competitors and grab significant chunks of the $2 billion civil and commercial launch markets. (It is expected to gain clearance to compete for U.S. military launch contracts in June). It now has roughly 40 missions in its multiyear launch manifest. These successes have helped Musk build a company valued at $12 billion, with more than 3,000 employees.
While not providing details of when or where that attempt would occur, Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and COO, told Defense News on Wednesday that the company hopes its next attempted landing will take place on land, not at sea.
All tests of the reusable vehicle have occurred over water as a safety precaution, but the natural instability that occurs when a landing pad floating in the ocean has a very heavy rocket land on top of it has led to a series of near-misses for the technology.
SOURCES -Youtube, Twitter, Spacex, Extreme tech, CNBC, Defense News