On Jan. 19, SpaceX performed its final test before putting astronauts in its Crew Dragon capsule by intentionally aborting a Falcon 9 rocket launch shortly after liftoff.
A video of the In-Flight Abort Test, which was recorded live in conjunction with NASA at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is below:
The video shows a successful Falcon 9 launch as it’s aborted 84 seconds after launch, after which the flight computers triggered a sequence that detached the Dragon Crew capsule (where the astronauts and cargo would sit) from the rocket.
Without the aerodynamic capsule tip, the Falcon 9 rocket broke apart due to aerodynamic forces with a visible flash of light; the Dragon capsule then reoriented itself with thrusters and slowly deployed parachutes that landed it in the Atlantic Ocean, where a rescue ship sailed out for recovery.
Since this is a test intended to ensure the safety of real astronauts, the Dragon was outfitted with crash dummies placed on sensor-laden seats to record in-flight data. The capsule also had no floors or flight panel, but contained simulators to better record how those components reacted during all stages of launch, jettison, and landing.
In the event that this in-flight abortion sequence happens with people on board, SpaceX plans to have the U.S. military on standby to prioritize the safety of the crew over recovery of the capsule.
This test was originally scheduled for Friday, but weather conditions required SpaceX to push the launch for a better chance of success.
As of this writing, the Dragon capsule is still in the Atlantic ocean awaiting recovery. Once it’s pulled from the ocean, the data from its flight computers and sensors will be subject to analysis before SpaceX attempts its first launch with human passengers.