Musk ‘blasts’ Falcon 9 rocket into another milestone

On the Coast of Space, Florida, SpaceX blasted a Falcon 9 rocket into the air on Sunday, and soon blasted into the air with a spark, not knowing what Hollywood blockbuster slay it was making, but the real explosion was a deliberate test by SpaceX. To prove that the company’s Dragon spacecraft can safely push astronauts away if the rocket launch fails.

“Another amazing milestone has been reached,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bradenstin. “Congratulations to SpaceX and the entire NASA team for completing the last major flight milestone we need to complete. “

Musk 'blasts' Falcon 9 rocket into another milestone

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How important is the end-of-space testing for manned spaceflight and how does SpaceX do it?

It is understood that the in-flight abort test was designed to mimic a real launch, but there was one important difference: SpaceX triggered the Dragon spacecraft’s emergency escape system at the most critical moment of launch.

Musk 'blasts' Falcon 9 rocket into another milestone

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Less than 90 seconds after launch, the rocket reached a critical speed known as Max Q. This is the greatest air pressure, when the Earth’s dense atmosphere exerts enormous force on the rocket as it accelerates toward the sky.

SpaceX then triggered the abort button, and the capsule’s engine accelerated it away from the rocket. Musk said the Dragon spacecraft reached a top speed of Mach 2.2, more than twice the speed of sound, and the capsule peaked at an altitude of 131,000 feet (nearly 40,000 meters).

Musk 'blasts' Falcon 9 rocket into another milestone

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As the capsule moved on, the rocket exploded into pieces and flew into the sky.

The Dragon spacecraft landed in the Atlantic Ocean at 10:39 a.m. EST, under the protection of four parachutes.

Musk 'blasts' Falcon 9 rocket into another milestone

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The in-flight abort mission also represents another important test of SpaceX’s parachute system. It was the second “system-level test” of SpaceX’s Mark 3 parachute, just a month after SpaceX’s first test. Kathy Luds, NASA’s commercial aircraft manager, said SpaceX would need to conduct two more system-level tests before it took off.

SpaceX’s dragon spacecraft was developed in large part thanks to NASA’s commercial spacecraft program, “and this test is very important to us.” “Working closely with NASA is really the result of years of collaboration,” Benji Reed, SpaceX’s mission management director, said Friday. “

If the test and the final certification process for the Dragon spacecraft are successful, NASA expects SpaceX to send two astronauts to the space station between April and June this year. It will be the first time the United States has launched its own astronauts to the International Space Station since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.

In fact, NASA and Space X had already previewed the test, and NASA uploaded the entire video to YouTube, where interested children’s shoes can be clicked on.

“This is the last milestone in NASA’s development contract,” Ludes said at a news conference Friday. “I’ll tell you (Sunday) is going to be an exciting day,” he said. We deliberately failed the launch vehicle to ensure that the flight spacecraft we had developed for the crew stopped the system to function properly. “

Musk 'blasts' Falcon 9 rocket into another milestone

Pre-flight preparation

“Basically, we’re going to start the launch escape, and the Falcon engine will shut down,” said Benji Reed, SpaceX’s mission director. “As a result, the Falcon’s power will be switched off immediately after this happens.” “

The Falcon 9 and the Dragon will fly at nearly twice the speed of sound, so they will have a suspension of burns. “The Dragon ship will escape at the same time,” Reed said. SuperDraco takes about 10 seconds to burn in the Dragon spacecraft. With the departure of the Dragon spacecraft, the Dragon will reach Mach 2.3. We hope it’s actually a long way from the Falcon, because it accelerated before anything happened on the Falcon… This is a very fast process. “

Musk 'blasts' Falcon 9 rocket into another milestone

Simulated Man in Dragon Ship

The sudden separation of the Dragon spacecraft from the top of the rocket, coupled with the thrust loss of the Falcon 9 Merlin’s main engine, is likely to cause the launcher to start rolling at high altitude.

“The Dragon ship is going to leave, so the top of the second stage is basically a big air shovel, so all the air is pushing it, the huge force pushing it, and it also reduces the thrust, so Reed said. “It’s more susceptible to wind, and it starts to fall because it’s lost speed, it’s going to start to fall.”

“At some point, we expect the falcons to start splitting,” Reed said. “Both stages are loaded with fuel because we have the right quality and test the right direction, so we do expect a certain amount of flame in both stages. We’ll see. On a clear day, maybe you can see it from the ground. “

In fact, everything is generally different than expected, the Dragon spacecraft successfully completed the test, the commercial manned space flight schedule recommended a big step.

The in-flight launch abort capability is a key part of the Dragon spacecraft’s safety system, and SpaceX verified the Dragon’s ability to escape a launch pad emergency during a ground launch pad suspension in 2015.

“Sunday’s test is actually one of them, and it allows us to test the entire system end-to-end,” Reed said. “

From take-off to landing, the entire aborted test flight takes about 10 minutes. SpaceX and NASA officials must monitor the weather and ocean conditions carefully during the suspension of flight tests.

In addition, typical launch weather restrictions, such as strong winds and lightning, allow engineers to expect good visibility during the escape process in order to optically track the Falcon 9 launcher and Dragon spacecraft, and, just as important, the expected landing site in the Atlantic Ocean.

Musk 'blasts' Falcon 9 rocket into another milestone

Four parachutes open.

The launch abort system has been used in emergency situations for other rocket launches, most recently in October 2018, when the Russian Soyuz booster failed two minutes after liftoff. The Soyuz aborted the rocket launch and safely ejected Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and NASA flight engineer Nick Haig from the Soyuz booster.

SpaceX is conducting flight suspension tests under a commercial crew agreement granted by NASA in 2012.

Since 2011, NASA has awarded SpaceX a series of financing agreements and SpaceX worth more than $3.1 billion to develop a human-rated Dragon spacecraft. Since 2010, Boeing has acquired more than $4.8 billion from NASA’s Starliner crew.

The two companies aim to make their first manned mission later this year, ending America’s reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ship them to the International Space Station. Since the space shuttle was decommissioned in 2011, NASA has paid the Russian government $3.9 billion to provide crew transportation to the space station, according to NASA’s inspector general.