On Wednesday, Elon Musk’s private transport company SpaceX announced that it completed testing on its SuperDraco thruster, an abort engine that will be part of its new Dragon spacecraft.
More details on the updated Dragon capsule, capable of shuttling astronauts to and from the space station, will be revealed during a live media event tonight.
The SuperDraco is a “launch escape system,” or a system used to separate the crew capsule from the main rocket blasting them up to space if something goes wrong (like an explosion) during launch or the early stages of ascent.
Traditionally, launch escape systems have been “jettisoned after the first few minutes of launch,” SpaceX said in media release. But the SuperDraco system is actually built into the side walls of the Dragon spacecraft.
Since the engines stay with the spacecraft from liftoff to re-entry, “they can also be reused on future launches,” according to NASASpaceflight.com.
That’s a major advantage compared with previous escape systems because it means “Dragon will be able to provide astronauts with the unprecedented ability to escape from danger at any point during the ascent trajectory, not just in the first few minutes.”
The thrusters are special for another reason. They could also be used to land Dragon back on the ground propulsively or on “another planet with pinpoint accuracy,” SpaceX said.
The company test fired the engines last month at its rocket facility in McGregor, Texas. Check it out from a couple different angles below. It’s pretty amazing.
And here’s the full video below:
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
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