SpaceX completed a substantial milestone for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program this week, an undertaking that involved one of the commercial space company’s Falcon 9 rockets exploding in mid-air. But rest assured, that explosion was no accident; instead, SpaceX blew up its own rocket on purpose as a part of its planned Crew Dragon abort demonstration.
This week’s demonstration was to simulate a scenario in which a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket hypothetically stalled in mid-air, something that could and would be catastrophic for any astronauts sitting on an attached spacecraft like the Crew Dragon.
No one was harmed in the demonstration because the Crew Dragon spacecraft was completely crewless, but had there have been astronauts on the spacecraft, they would have made a safe landing because of the Crew Dragon’s autonomous emergency abort system. It jettisoned the spacecraft far away from the Falcon 9 rocket in mere seconds with a set of Super Draco thrusters, enabling it to get out of harm’s way. Shortly after the maneuver, it made a soft landing in the ocean with a set of parachutes.
Destroying the Falcon 9 rocket was a necessary sacrifice on SpaceX’s part to prove to NASA that its platform would keep all potential life forms onboard safe from any possible disasters, and it passed that test with flying colors. With that in mind, while the destruction of the Falcon 9 rocket was a costly choice for SpaceX, it also ensures that the company will get to ferry NASA’s astronauts to space in the near future.