This morning SpaceX launched its Pad Abort Test, a critical step in preparing for its first manned missions, slated to start in 2017. The abort system provides escape capability to the crew onboard the ship from any time between lift off and reaching orbit. In the event of a catastrophe, the 8 SuperDraco engines SpaceX has installed around its crew capsule would fire, driving the capsule up in the air and deploying parachutes for a safe landing. An unnamed dummy will join the test as a tool to collect data on gravitational forces of the process.
The goal of this test, according to a statement from SpaceX, is to ensure overall effectiveness of the escape system, including: the ability to execute critical commands quickly, respond to real time data, accurately record trajectory data, and obtain data on the conditions that would impact the crew. This step is an important one to ensure that future crew members will be safe and missions can be successful. Read more about the test and what it means for SpaceX’s future plans on The Verge.