SpaceX's Crew Dragon successfully fired its launch-escape engines on the ground at the company's facilities at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, on Wednesday, November 13.
It was a necessary test on target for a crucial test flight in the coming weeks, sometime in December. This was nearly seven months after an explosion rocked the same test stand during a previous attempt. SpaceX, alongside NASA, the U.S. Air Force and the National Transportation Safety Board, spent several months investigating the April incident. During the April test, a small amount of liquid oxidizer leaked into another system, causing an explosive chain reaction that led to the destruction of the vehicle, investigators concluded. The Crew Dragon is designed to travel into space on top of one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets.
With this escape system, the capsule can keep future astronauts safe in the event that something goes wrong during launch. SpaceX and Boeing are both building separated space taxis for astronauts under a NASA contract. Boeing completed a ground test of its launch escape system, called a pad abort, on November 4. SpaceX has not yet proven out the escape thrusters during flight. The company sent an uncrewed Crew Dragon to the ISS in March, showing that the capsule could successfully dock to the station and then return to Earth via parachutes.