SpaceX to test life-saving crew capsule next week

Washington: SpaceX is set to blast off a crew capsule on May 6 to test an astronaut rescue system designed to save lives in case of an emergency in a human spaceflight, NASA said.

“SpaceX is now targeting Wednesday, May 6, for a pad abort test of its Crew Dragon, a spacecraft under final development and certification through NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme (CCP),” the US space agency said.

The Dragon capsule with a dummy astronaut named Buster is slated to be blasted from a platform at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida after 7 a.m. EDT (Eastern Daylight Time), media reports said.

The ability to abort from a launch or pad emergency and safely carry crew members out of harm’s way is a critical element for NASA’s next generation of crewed spacecraft.

“This is what SpaceX was basically founded for, human spaceflight,” said Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of Mission Assurance with SpaceX.

“The pad abort is going to show that we have developed a revolutionary system for the safety of the astronauts, and this test is going to show how it works. It’s our first big test on the Crew Dragon, Koenigsmann noted.

The California-based SpaceX is aiming for a manned flight as early as 2017. “No matter what happens on test day, SpaceX is going to learn a lot,” said Jon Cowart, NASA’s partner manager for SpaceX.

“One test is worth a thousand good analyses,” Cowart noted.