SpaceX Tests Launch Abort System

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SpaceX has put its Dragon astronaut capsule through a practice abort.

The demonstration simulated what would happen to the crewship in the event of a rocket failure on the launch pad.

Wednesday’s test was conducted at Cape Canaveral in Florida, and saw a test vehicle – carrying no humans, only a dummy – hurled skywards by a set of powerful in-built thrusters.

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The Dragon ship was propelled to a safe distance, lowering itself softly into the Atlantic via three parachutes.

SpaceX expects to start launching astronauts in 2017.

It is one of two companies that have been contracted by the US space agency (Nasa) to develop vehicles to ferry people to and from the International Space Station (ISS). The other firm is Boeing.

Both have to demonstrate effective launch escape technologies for their rockets and capsules to receive certification. Only with the necessary assurance will Nasa permit its astronauts to climb aboard.

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SpaceX has elected to use a so-called pusher system on the Dragon.

Eight SuperDraco thrusters have been integrated into the side of the ship, and these fired in tandem for just over five seconds at the start of the test to hurl the ship up and to the east of the Cape. Read the rest of this entry »


SpaceX Unveils Reusable Dragon Crew Capsule

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For New ScientistLauren Hitchings writes: First cargo, now crew – the uber-modern “space taxi” known as the Dragon V2 is ready for passengers. At an unveiling ceremony yesterday, complete with smoke effects and coloured lights, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk gave the world its first glimpse of the upgraded Dragon spacecraft.dragon-interior

“As long as we continue to throw away rockets and spacecraft, we will never have true access to space.”

— SpaceX CEO Elon Musk

NASA is already using an unpiloted version of Dragon to send cargo to the International Space Station and return valuable gear and scientific experiments. But Musk has always wanted Dragon to become a reusable ride for astronauts.

The new vehicle has simple silvery walls, seats for up to seven passengers and a set of flatscreen control panels. The spacecraft can dock itself to the ISS without help from the space station’s robotic arm. But the most radical aspect of the redesign is the landing gear, which will allow astronauts to set the spacecraft down on solid ground. Read the rest of this entry »