NASA has announced that SpaceX has completed a series of static fire engine tests for the Crew Dragon spacecraft. These tests are in advance of an in-flight launch escape demonstration known and the In-Flight Abort Test. The engine tests were conducted near the SpaceX Landing Zone 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The test started with two burns for a duration of one second each for two of the Crew Dragon’s 12 Draco thrusters. The Draco thrusters are used for on-orbit maneuvering and attitude control. The thrusters will be used for re-orientation during certain in-flight launch escapes.
After the pair of initial Draco burns, the SpaceX team then completed a full-duration firing that lasted for approximately nine seconds. That more extended firing used the Crew Dragon’s eight SuperDraco engines. The SuperDraco engines are meant to accelerate Dragon away from the F9 launch vehicle in the event of an emergency after liftoff. NASA says that immediately after the Super Dracos shut down, two Dracos thrusters fired, and all eight SuperDraco flaps closed to mimic the sequence required to orient the spacecraft in-flight to a parachute deploy attitude and close the flaps before reentry.
NASA says that the full sequence from SuperDraco startup to flap closure spanned about 70 seconds. The same test was conducted in April when an anomaly resulted in an explosion and the loss of the vehicle. The cause of that problem was found by a team from NASA and SpaceX. The system was redesigned to prevent the event from reoccurring. NASA plans to review the data from the current test, perform hardware inspections, and then establish a target launch date for the In-Flight Abort Test.