The backup plan for SpaceX

They have practiced for an aborted launch

SpaceX January Launch

On Sunday, Jan. 19, an eight-minute test took place, one all-important test to make sure that if SpaceX should need to abort after launch then the crew could safely make it back down to Earth.

When writing it out, the plan seems pretty simple: if there is trouble, separate the rocket thrusters from the crew cabin allowing the rocket part to burn out and fall into the Atlantic Ocean while the crew parachutes safely into the ocean waters where a boat picks them up. Here are the parachutes deployed.

Parachutes float the capsule to the sea! credit SpaceX

The capsule, pictured below, fell perfectly and safely to the ocean water.

Perfect Ocean Landing credit SpaceX

Of course, a lot can go wrong during the crucial minute-thirty. In fact, due to weather, the slated Jan. 18 trial had to be put off a day.

Here is a link to see the story and how it looks as a demonstration. Watch that first as it’s very interesting and helpful when understanding what really took place. Go HERE.

And that Sunday morning, all went exceedingly well, about as perfect as one could imagine. I personally was in Dallas speaking to the Texas Water Board Association, and so missed the test. However, thanks to the magic of modern internet you can go HERE to see the whole thing!

As of this writing the launch itself is at a 60% chance of happening as the sky really needs to be rain- and cloud-free. Visual contact with the rocket is crucial. So we’ll see. But it’s comforting to know that if things do go awry during the launch, there is an emergency plan.



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About the Author:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.