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SpaceX intentionally destroys a rocket to test the Crew Dragon abort system

NASA and SpaceX tested the Crew Dragon's ability to safely escape the Falcon 9 rocket in the event of a failure.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX postponed Saturday's Crew Dragon abort test because of sustained winds and rough seas, but it appeared to go off without a hitch Sunday morning. 

The nearly 12-minute mission appeared successful at first glance, with the Dragon separating from the Falcon 9 rocket about a minute-thirty after launch -- and a fiery explosion thereafter. 

The Dragon's drogue chutes deployed a few minutes later, with the Crew Dragon making a splash into the Atlantic Ocean roughly nine minutes into the mission.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted about the "successful" test, one that lays the foundation of putting American astronauts back into space from American soil.

The previous story is below.


SpaceX is expected to intentionally destroy a Falcon 9 rocket to test the safety of a spacecraft that will eventually carry astronauts.

NASA and SpaceX are eyeing 8 a.m. on Saturday for the In-Flight Abort Test of Crew Dragon. The test launch will air on NASA TV, its YouTube channel and SpaceX's YouTube channel.

During the test, a Falcon 9 rocket carrying Crew Dragon will launch from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. Then, SpaceX will command Crew Dragon's abort system and break away from the rocket about a minute and a half into the flight.

Crew Dragon is expected to deploy four parachutes as it falls back to Earth and then splash down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. Unfortunately for the Falcon 9, SpaceX doesn't expect the rocket to survive the capsule's separation from the booster.

Falcon 9 is expected to break up over the ocean. It could get more than 12 miles above Earth and traveling 1.5 times the speed of sound.

"Destroyed in Dragon fire," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted.

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Though the launch window is four hours, the test should take less than 12 minutes.

If all goes well for the abort launch test, Crew Dragon could be cleared to fly astronauts in just weeks. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were chosen to be the spacecraft's first passengers. Crew Dragon will mark the first crewed spaceflight mission for NASA in almost a decade.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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