Here’s what it looks like when your rocket launch aborts

Chris Davies - May 24, 2015, 9:30 am CDT
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Here’s what it looks like when your rocket launch aborts

A pilot’s eye view of what happens when a rocket launch goes wrong is not something most would like to experience, but SpaceX can help you live it vicariously. Elon Musk’s commercial space flight company has released capsule footage from the Dragon craft used in the launch abort system test completed successfully earlier this month, a vital backup should something go wrong when the ship starts taking human passengers up into Earth’s atmosphere and beyond.

The failsafe is effectively required to separate Dragon from the rest of the Falcon rocket and shift its human cargo out of harm’s way and to an emergency ocean landing. To do that, it relies on eight SuperDraco engines which split the capsule from Falcon and then safely land it.

Unsurprisingly, SpaceX’s test flight involved a sensor-stuffed dummy rather than actual astronauts. The cameras mounted on Dragon do allow us to see what a human crew might have witnessed as they braced against the huge forces mustered during the 345mph maneuver.

In fact, Dragon went from 0-100 mph in just 1.2 seconds, SpaceX confirmed, enough to apply the equivalent of six times the strength of Earth gravity to the occupants.

Still, even with such forces involved, SpaceX says a crew would have not only been safe but “in great shape”.

The system will be a key part of Dragon’s backup systems when the spacescraft begins human transportation, something SpaceX expects to start in 2017.


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