SpaceX is set to launch it’s Crew Dragon capsule early Saturday, as part of a critical abort test that will simulate a Falcon 9 rocket broke apart over the Atlantic Ocean.
Forecasters with the 45th Weather Squadron are expecting 90% “go” conditions for the 8 a.m. liftoff from Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A. SpaceX teams have a four-hour window to launch the mission known as in-flight abort or IFA.
“Winds will become southeasterly on Saturday, forming some shallow coastal showers,” forecasters said Wednesday. “The primary weather concern is a flight through precipitation with those showers.”
Upper-level winds, however, are also critical in determining whether a mission can take flight – a factor not calculated into these routine, pre-launch weather analyses. Forecasters and launch managers will review upper-level wind data closer to liftoff to determine if they pose a threat to the rocket.
According to Space.com, Crew Dragon’s in-flight abort is SpaceX’s final major test as it prepares to fly astronauts to the International Space Station from American soil, a feat not accomplished since the last space shuttle mission in July 2011. The test will stress the capsule’s abort systems, which are designed to push the capsule – and future astronauts – away from Falcon 9 in the event of an emergency.
About 90 seconds into the flight, Crew Dragon will be about 70,000 feet in altitude and 2.5 miles downrange from the launch site. It will automatically sense a pre-programmed “failure” in the mission and fire its powerful SuperDraco abort engines, pushing itself away from the rocket.
As Crew Dragon begins preparing itself for splashdown and recovery, Falcon 9 will aerodynamically break apart over the Atlantic Ocean – an ending that SpaceX tried to prevent, according to CEO Elon Musk.
“We tried to design a way to save B1046, but not possible,” Musk tweeted, mentioning the booster by its serial number.
Finally, the uncrewed capsule will deploy its parachutes, splashdown, and wait for recovery from SpaceX and NASA teams. In total, the test will simulate activities ranging from liftoff to the abort system to the recovery team’s response.
NASA and SpaceX will host a live stream beginning at 7:45 a.m. Saturday.