Elon Musk says the Crew Dragon spacecraft is designed to escape a fireball ‘literally like something out of Star Wars’

January 20, 2020
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A very delighted Elon Musk explained how the SpaceX Crew Dragon is designed to be able to escape from a fireball, celebrating the “risky” safety test of the spacecraft meant to show astronauts could survive a rocket failure.  “Since the spacecraft has a very powerful base heat shield, and even a leeward-side heat shield, it should be really not significantly affected by a fireball,” Musk said. “So it could, quite literally like something out of Star Wars.” The SpaceX CEO evoked the scene near the end of “Return of the Jedi,” when the Millennium Falcon narrowly escaped the fiery blast of the Death Star. Unlike the Star Wars mission, the Crew Dragon launched with the company’s Falcon 9 rocket, which was intentionally shut down about 84 seconds into its flight. The Falcon 9 exploded afterward, but the Crew Dragon (which carried no passengers) successfully detached and flew away, before later landing in the Atlantic Ocean. Musk said the rocket booster of the spacecraft is “less an explosion” and “much more a fireball than it is an overpressure event.” In principle, Musk says the Crew Dragon should be able to survive an upper-stage explosion before the escape event – but that’s not the ideal course of events.  “We want to avoid doing that,” he said. “But it is really meant to be something that can fly out of the fireball.”

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