Crew Dragon Launch Escape Demonstration
19 January 2020
Space Launch Complex 39A
Kennedy Space Center

SpaceX performed the Crew Dragon Launch Escape Demonstration - without any astronauts onboard - on 19 January 2020 launching on a Falcon 9 rocket at 10:30 a.m. from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. This test demonstrated Crew Dragon’s ability to carry crew to safety in the event of an emergency on ascent. This test of Crew Dragon’s launch escape capabilities is designed to provide data toward NASA certifying the spacecraft to begin carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station. In May 2015, SpaceX completed a Crew Dragon pad abort demonstration.

For this test, Falcon 9’s ascent trajectory mimicked a Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station to best match the physical environments the rocket and spacecraft will encounter during a normal ascent. However, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to intentionally trigger a launch escape after Max Q, the moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket.

Following Crew Dragon’s separation, the Falcon 9 rocket aerodynamically broke up offshore over the Atlantic Ocean. The Crew Dragon spacecraft safely parachuted into the ocean about ten minutes after liftoff.

The Launch
The Falcon 9 rocket flies into the clouds and disappears as viewed from my location seconds before the abort occurs.
The Falcon 9 Breakup
The actual abort and subsequent breakup of the Falcon 9 rocket about 84 seconds into the flight was obscured by thick clouds from my viewing location. Below are images from the NASA / SpaceX coverage showing the Falcon 9 erupting into a fireball and the departure of Crew Dragon seen as a smoky streak from its Super Draco abort motors.
All contents copyright Lunar Cabin