WASHINGTON — SpaceX plans to perform a pad abort test of the crew version of its Dragon spacecraft in Florida May 5, the company and NASA announced April 21.

In the test, an uncrewed Dragon spacecraft will lift off from the pad at Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station using eight SuperDraco thrusters. The capsule will splash down in the Atlantic Ocean just offshore after a brief flight.

The test is scheduled for a four-hour window beginning at 9:30 a.m. EDT, with a backup test date of May 6. In a statement announcing the launch, NASA cautioned that, due to its experimental nature, “it has a higher likelihood of encountering an issue than an operational mission does.”

The test, designed to demonstrate the ability of Dragon to escape its launch vehicle in the event of an emergency, is one of four milestones remaining on SpaceX’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability agreement with NASA awarded in 2012. An in-flight abort test, where the Dragon separates from a Falcon 9 rocket during a launch, is planned for September from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Two reviews are also planned for completion later this year.


Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...