Poor Weather Postpones SpaceX Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort Demonstration Test to Jan 19: Photos

Up Close view of SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule bolted atop Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule stand poised for liftoff at Launch Complex-39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL, for Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort (IFA) test. As seen from pad 39A after sea weather scrub. IFA launch reset to Jan. 19, 2020. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – The SpaceX Crew Dragon poised for liftoff on the critical In Flight Abort (IFA) demonstration test will have to sit on the ground another day until Sunday morning, Jan. 19 because of poor weather conditions for the splashdown at sea – NASA and SpaceX officials announced early this morning Jan. 18 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Last night the NASA and SpaceX teams had already delayed today’s planned launch by approximately 3 hours into the 4 hour launch window – thus no longer for the 8 a.m. opening of the launch window.

When it was obvious that deteriorating weather conditions would prevail this morning NASA and SpaceX managers decided to scrub for the day and recycle for a 24 hour turnaround to attempt a launch on Sunday instead.

Launch Managers decided prevailing rough seas, high waves and high winds would result in poor splashdown & recovery conditions for the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

That’s important because SpaceX plans to refurbish the IFA Crew Dragon and launch it with crew some day.

“NASA and SpaceX now are targeting 8 a.m. EST Sunday, Jan. 19, for launch of the company’s In-Flight Abort Test from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, which will demonstrate Crew Dragon’s ability to safely escape the Falcon 9 rocket in the event of a failure during launch. The abort test has a six-hour launch window,” NASA officials said.

“Teams are standing down from today’s launch attempt due to poor splashdown and recovery weather.”

 

Post-scrub we media revisited pad 39A to reset our remote cameras.

See our photos of the Falcon 9/IFA Crew Dragon stack taken at pad 39A this morning Jan. 18 during our media remote camera setup.

Up Close view of SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule bolted atop Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule stand poised for liftoff at Launch Complex-39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL, for Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort (IFA) test. As seen from pad 39A after sea weather scrub. IFA launch reset to Jan. 19, 2020. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

For Sunday’s launch attempt, meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict a 60% chance of favorable weather toward the opening of the window with a 40% chance toward the end of the window.

The primary concerns for launch day being the thick cloud layer and flight through precipitation rule during the launch window.

The team is also keeping an eye on the state of the sea states – hoping for an improvement over today which forced a scrub.

SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon capsule stand poised for liftoff at Launch Complex-39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL, for Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort (IFA) test. As seen from pad 39A after sea weather scrub. IFA launch reset to Jan. 19, 2020. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The In Flight Abort (IFA) demonstration is the final, major test before astronauts fly aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

You can watch the test launch, as well as other activities leading up to the test, on NASA Television and the agency’s website starting about 20 minutes before liftoff.

www.nasa.gov and https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv

Up Close view of SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule bolted atop Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule stand poised for liftoff at Launch Complex-39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL, for Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort (IFA) test. As seen from pad 39A after sea weather scrub. IFA launch reset to Jan. 19, 2020. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The IFA test flight test is planned to demonstrate the ability of Crew Dragon’s launch escape system to safely escape from a Falcon 9 rocket in the unlikely event of a rocket failure during launch.

The Crew Dragon Super Draco thrusters will fire to verify the spacecraft’s ability to separate from the Falcon 9 in flight at high altitude to carry astronauts to safety in the event of an emergency during ascent.

The SuperDracos will fire to trigger a launch escape at about 84 seconds after liftoff and at an altitude of about 20 km while generating almost 130,000 pounds of thrust.

NASA and SpaceX teams are now planning to target Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020 for the company’s in-flight abort test. The test window opens at 8 a.m. EST. Illustration credit: SpaceX

The Crew Dragon will continue skyward on an escape trajectory to a maximum altitude of about 42 km and then jettison the spent trunk no longer needed.

Soon after the four parachutes will deploy to slow the descent for a splashdown due east of KSC and the Cape at a distance of about 20 miles (32 kilometers). See video animation below.

The In Flight Abort demonstration test is a critical test hurdle for SpaceX to prove that a human rated Crew Dragon spacecraft will be pulled away safely in a split second in case of a catastrophic failure of the Falcon 9 rocket in flight at high altitude and save the astronauts lives using the Super Draco abort engines mounted on the side wall of the spaceship Crew Dragon.

NASA astronauts will only fly aboard Crew Dragon following a successful IFA demonstration.

Watch this NASA SpaceX video outlining the IFA test:

Video Caption: The uncrewed in-flight abort demonstration is targeted for 8 a.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020 from Launch Complex 39A in Florida. There is a four-hour test window. Credits: SpaceX

The Falcon 9 at pad 39A for the IFA test flight is recycled Booster 1046 and has flown 3 times. It is also the first Block 5 version Falcon 9.

Furthermore, there are no grid fins and landing legs attached to the side of the booster – because it is not expected to survive the survive the severe aerodynamic forces induced by the IFA test after triggering separation of the Crew Dragon.

Watch Ken’s continuing reports onsite for live reporting of upcoming SpaceX and ULA launches including In-Flight Abort, Starlink and Solar Orbiter in Jan/Feb 2020 at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com

Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
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Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events

Jan 18/19: 7 PM, Quality Inn Kennedy Space Center, Titusville, FL. “SpaceX In Flight Abort and Starlink launches Jan 18 & 20. ULA Solar Orbiter Feb 5.” Free. In hotel lobby. Photos for sale

Ken Kremer

Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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