SpaceX abort system can carry astronauts to safety in five seconds

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SpaceX is a step closer to manned flights after a successful test of a launch pad abort system. Photo: Space X
SpaceX is a step closer to manned flights after a successful test of a launch pad abort system. Photo: Space X

When the rocket you are about to ride has 3.9 million pounds of thrust under the seat, it’s comforting to have an exit strategy should something go wrong.

The private company SpaceX recently had a successful test of a launch abort system as it moves closer to having manned flights on its manifest.

Astronauts inside a Dragon spacecraft can be propelled a third of a mile away from the rocket in five seconds in the event of an emergency. SpaceX already has had seven successful unmanned cargo missions to the International Space Station and hopes to start carrying astronauts into space by 2017.

The Dragon capsule separates from the thruster  engines during an abort test flight. Photo: SpaceX
The Dragon capsule separates from the thruster engines during an abort test flight. Photo: SpaceX

The May 6 Pad Abort Test took less than two minutes. Eight thrusting engines, the same ones that would be used to land the craft at the end of a mission, carried the unmanned Dragon capsule a safe distance from the launch pad before chutes deployed for an ocean landing.

Each engine has 15,000 pounds of thrust and are located on the sides of the vehicle. SpaceX released a video of the test flight on YouTube (see video below). The abort system would also work as a rocket heads into orbit.

Elon Musk founded the company in 2002 and has grown it into the most profitable private launch serves provider. SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA for at least 12 cargo supply missions, including manned flights, according to the company website.

SpaceX’s main goal is to develop reusable rockets and reduce the cost of space travel. It states its ultimate goal is to enable people to live on other planets.