'Team Patrick-Cape' supports SpaceX Pad Abort Test Mission from the Cape
By 45th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 06, 2015
CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- The 45th Space Wing supported Space Exploration Technologies' (SpaceX) and NASA's successful Pad Abort Test Mission from Launch Complex 40 here Wednesday at 9 a.m., helping to further open the door to human spaceflight returning to the Space Coast.
A combined team of military, government civilians and contractors from across the 45th Space Wing provided support to the mission, including weather forecasts, launch and range operations, security, safety and public affairs.
NASA stated that the purpose of their Commercial Crew Program (CCP) is to facilitate the development of U.S. commercial crew space transportation capabilities with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station.
According to SpaceX, today's Pad Abort Test was a trial run for a spacecraft's launch abort system (sometimes called a launch escape system).
This system was designed specifically to quickly get the crew and spacecraft away from the rocket in the event of a potential failure.
It is similar to an ejection seat for a fighter pilot, but instead of ejecting the pilot out of the spacecraft, the entire spacecraft is "ejected" away from the launch vehicle.
This is different than previous emergency evacuation systems, according to SpaceX.
Previous launch abort systems have been powered by a rocket tower mounted on top of the spacecraft. During an emergency, the tower would ignite and essentially pull the spacecraft to safety. This works well while the spacecraft is on the launch pad and for a few minutes into ascent, but once the vehicle reaches a certain altitude, the system is no longer useful and must be discarded.
SpaceX's launch abort system, however, is integrated directly into the spacecraft. This means Crew Dragon will have launch escape capability from the launch pad all the way to orbit.
NASA said they expect to learn plenty from today's mission that will pay huge dividends in the near future.
"Pending the outcome of the Pad Abort Test, SpaceX will then conduct an in-flight abort test. With the in-flight abort, we will test the same launch abort system, however this time in mid-flight during an actual launch. Both the pad abort and in-flight abort will be challenging tests, but the data gathered here will be key to helping develop one of the safest, most reliable spacecraft ever flown," they said.
Maj. Gen. (Sel.) Nina Armagno, commander, 45th Space Wing, who also served as the Test Launch Authority for this historic mission, said the key to a successful operation was due to our "disciplined and safe process execution."
"First off, let me thank SpaceX and NASA and all our mission partners who helped make history this morning," she said.
"From the very beginning, we treated this mission exactly the same way we do for every other launch here on the Eastern Range," said Armagno.
"Team Patrick-Cape" was fully engaged in doing this mission the only way they know how - and that's with 100% Mission Success. Being a part of this magnificent team never fails to impress me," she added.
"Great job all!"