SpaceX destroy rocket in successful 'abort' evacuation test

19 January 2020, 17:29 | Updated: 19 January 2020, 18:52

The SpaceX rocket exploded during the company's emergency evacuation test
The SpaceX rocket exploded during the company's emergency evacuation test. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

SpaceX have destroyed one of their rockets during a successful test of the crew capsule's mid-flight evacuation procedure.

Two mannequins were placed in the capsule and launched 12 miles above the Atlantic Ocean, before thrusters blasted it out of harms way as the rocket booster tumbled out of control.

The capsule reached altitude of around 27 miles before its parachute landed it safely into the ocean, just offshore of the test facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Flight controllers at the company's headquarters cheered the successful test, the final major tested needed before they can send NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

The rocket boosters exploded and crashed into the ocean in pieces
The rocket boosters exploded and crashed into the ocean in pieces. Picture: PA Images

Recycled from three previous launches, the SpaceX rocket was destroyed as it crashed into the sea in pieces.

The company, founded and managed by Elon Musk, normally recovers its boosters for use in future tests.

"I'm super fired up," said Mr Musk.

"It's just going to be wonderful to get astronauts back into orbit from American soil after almost a decade of not being able to do so.

"That's just super exciting."

SpaceX's Benji Reed, director of crew mission management, said: "That's the main objective of this test, is to show that we can carry the astronauts safely away from the rocket in case anything's going wrong."

"This test is very important to us...a huge practice session."

The successful test is the final major test before NASA astronauts can fly to the International Space Station
The successful test is the final major test before NASA astronauts can fly to the International Space Station. Picture: PA Images

The launch was delayed by a day due to bad weather, but Sunday's launch saw hundreds of SpaceX, NASA and US Air Force employees on land, at sea and in the air, as well as tourists and locals at the company's visitor complex and nearby beaches.

NASA's commercial crew programme manager Kathy Lueders hailed the test as "our last open milestone" before allowing SpaceX to launch Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken to the International Space Station.

She confirmed that could happen as soon as March.