Crew Dragon News

In-Flight Abort Test just went perfectly, as far as I can see.

The Falcon 9 launched, ascended to 'max-q'. The Crew Dragon initiated the abort. The capsule separated successfully, jettisoned its 'trunk' module, oriented itself for entry, and then when it was lower, released two drogue parachutes, then four main parachutes (the new mk.3's). All of them opened sucessfully, and the Crew Dragon splashed down in slightly rough water with whitecaps, where the recovery ship and four fast-boats took over.

Poor valiant B 1046 exploded into a ball of flame after the Crew Dragon was safely away. (Due to aerodynamic forces or a destruct command?) That was all expected.

Replay of the live-feed is here:

Apparently Tim Dodd has his own stream that showed some large object (not the Crew Dragon which landed successfully) hitting the ocean at terminal velocity and exploding. Speculation is that was the second stage, which would have been full of fuel and was never lit, that came away from the first stage (which exploded at high altitude) and survived intact till it hit the water.

Photo of that is here:

So despite this launch not being intended to reach orbit, it proved to be one of the more eventful SpaceX launches in memory.

Seems to have achieved all the required mission goals.

Jim Bridenstine likes it:

Short video clip of the Crew Dragon separating and then B 1046 exploding. With something coming out of the explosion trailing vapor, presumably that second stage.

Truly extraordinary telescope shot of the precise moment of the abort. You can see the Falcon booster still firing (I believe that it had already begun throttling down at that point) and the smaller SuperDraco engines on the Crew Dragon firing:

Next up: Post-flight press conference that will be streamed here:

The first question asked was when the manned DM-2 will go. Elon said that they should have the Crew Dragon at the Cape by the end of this month. But he anticipates it actually flying in the second quarter of 2020. In the April- June timeframe, in other words.

My guess is closer to the June end. They are going to slowly and laboriously go through all their checks and double-checks, but there aren't any more big hurdles in their way. Next time, real people are going to be risking their lives on these things.

Somebody asked what the mystery object was that blew up on hitting the water. I don't think that Elon had seen it. He speculated that it was the Falcon 9 thrust structure and engines, which he expected to fall in one piece (and immediately sink to the ocean floor). But given the big fireball when it hit, it seemed to have been full of fuel. (I'm still going with the second stage theory.)

Elon says that even if the booster explodes without the abort happening, the Crew Dragon is robust enough to survive. Part of that is because booster explosions are really more along the lines of big fireballs when the fuel ignites and the vehicle fragments. They aren't high-explosive explosions that produce blast pressure-waves. Of course they don't want to ever see that happening, which is why they have the in-flight abort capability to separate the capsule from a failing booster.

It wasn't even that rough a ride. The abort was about 3.5 g's, and the entry about 2.3:
Even salvaged the Mark 3 parachutes. Is nothing still sacred when it comes the traditional disposability and wasting of rocket and spacecraft components?
Image in the upper right here shows the mystery object falling. Click on it and see it in full-screen format, and it definitely looks to be the second stage.

The Crew Dragon has arrived back in Port Canaveral, clearly visible on the deck of its SpaceX recovery ship. From what little could be seen of it, it looked fine and there weren't any obvious blemishes or scars. Reportedly they will tear it apart and examine it piece by piece.

Extended video of its arrival here. Skip forward to near the end for the closest looks.
Absolutely amazing SpaceX video of B1046 powering down and the Crew Dragon departing

Julia Bergeron has a very good picture of the Crew Dragon arriving back in Port Canaveral here:

More good photos by Kyle Montgomery here:

Here's another big object that fell into the sea: The Crew Dragon's trunk. It was recovered and Elon was surprised that it seems to have survived intact.

Here's the height that it fell from:

It looks relatively light and presumably survived for pretty much the same reasons that the payload fairings do. Air resistance slows it down more effectively than it does a large heavy spacecraft.

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