The crew variant of SpaceX's Dragon V2 capsule is designed to carry up to 7 passengers to the International Space Station after being launched atop a Block 5 reusable Falcon 9 rocket.
SpaceX will begin shuttling NASA's astronauts to the orbiting laboratory under the agency's Commercial Crew Program in 2020.
Crew Dragon is designed to operate autonomously while also having the capability to be monitored & controlled by SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California, and the astronauts on board.
Features include a launch abort system, an advanced environmental control and life support system that keeps the crew safe and comfortable during flight.
For the In Flight Abort test, SpaceX will use a thrice flown Falcon 9 first stage.
The second stage will be fully loaded with fuel but will not have an engine; instead, it will have an engine mass simulator to provide an as-realistic-as-possible Falcon 9 configuration for the abort test without needlessly sacrificing a several million dollar Merlin Vac engine.
After launch, Falcon 9 will fly a normal crew launch trajectory until 88 seconds into flight - just before the period of maximum dynamic pressure, or Max-Q, on the rocket and Crew Dragon.Max-Q is the most difficult and stressful period for a rocket during launch.
At this point, Crew Dragon's SuperDraco abort engines will fire, yanking Dragon away from the top of the still-firing Falcon 9 rocket - as would happen in real life if a launch emergency occurred.
Dragon will fly itself safely away from the failing Falcon 9, deploy its parachutes, and be recovered in the Atlantic Ocean - demonstrating a key safety feature of the system for human flights.
The Falcon 9 rocket is not expected to survive the abort test, breaking up almost instantly from the extreme aerodynamic forces of Max-Q.
If the rocket does somehow survive, its Autonomous Flight Termination System will destroy the Falcon 9 for safety to land, air, and sea space - as is mandated by the U.S. Air Force which oversees all launch safety considerations for the United States.
NASA's historic Kennedy Space Center is located on Cape Canaveral, Florida, and has hosted decades of historic space missions since the early days of the Apollo program.
Today, Kennedy Space Center is a multi-user spaceport and hosts private companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, and others.
SpaceX leases Launch Complex 39A at NASA's flagship facility and uses the pad to launch its Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 rockets. The pad is also used to launch missions for the Commercial Crew Program in which SpaceX will launch astronauts to the Space Station for NASA aboard their Crew Dragon capsule.
Launch Complex 39A was previously used by NASA to launch the Apollo 11 mission to land the first humans on the moon and Space Shuttle missions to assemble the International Space Station and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.
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