SpaceX demonstrated Wednesday the Crew Dragon spacecraft abort system, which was designed to offer astronauts the ability to escape should anything life-threatening occur on the launch pad.

Launching from Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the Crew Dragon spacecraft leapt to space with eight SuperDraco engines. When the engines fired, each one instantly produced around 15,000 pounds of thrust, lifting the spacecraft over the Atlantic Ocean. As planned, the Crew Dragon dropped its drunk, parachuting to safety on the ocean. From engine ignition to the ocean splashdown, the test lasted around two minutes.

Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program manager for NASA, congratulated SpaceX on the success of the Crew Dragon's test flight, lauding the company's efforts toward achieving certification from the agency.

The flight test is an important milestone for SpaceX as it furthers its plan of meeting a major requirement called for by future piloted spacecraft. The company will be able to use data from the test flight to improve performance and aerodynamic models and its design to guarantee the safety of a crew at all phases of their flight.

Gwynne Shotwell, chief operating officer and president for SpaceX, said the company was founded on the goal of bringing people to space. Its partnership with NASA has been integral to the development of the Crew Dragon and the success of the test flight will help SpaceX stay on course for crewed flights scheduled for 2017.

Over 270 special instruments, like accelerometers and temperature sensors, were strapped on and in the Crew Dragon to measure various information, such as acceleration effects and stresses. A dummy was included as well in the test to see how the escape system will affect the human body. Weights were also places on crew seats to simulate the amount of mass that would be present in a crewed launch.

NASA is already getting the space station ready for a commercial crew spacecraft that will be realized through the Crew Dragon from SpaceX and the CST-100 from Boeing. The plan is to use privately operated and developed spacecraft to bring up to four astronauts into space for every mission. Crew members will eventually be increased to seven and the amount of scientific experiments that could be performed in space will also be increased.

The escape feature on the Crew Dragon has not been seen on American-built spacecraft since the days of the Apollo missions.

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