The competition heats up: SpaceX has successfully tested its abort rocket thrusters that will be used to speed a Dragon capsule away from any rocket during a failed launch.
Named SuperDracos, the engines are arranged in four pairs – SpaceX calls them ‘jetpacks’ – integrated around the outside of the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Firing all at once, the eight engines produce 120,000 pounds of thrust – enough power to accelerate a Crew Dragon from zero to 100 mph in 1.2 seconds. In the unlikely event of an emergency, that power means the ability to lift the crew a safe distance off the launch pad or far away from a booster failing on the way to orbit. That capability was demonstrated earlier this year in a pad abort test that confirmed the SuperDraco design in a flight-like condition.
A normal launch of the Crew Dragon atop a Falcon 9 rocket would not offer the SuperDracos anything to do during the mission since their only responsibility is to fire in an emergency to rescue the crew onboard. Eventually, SpaceX plans to use the SuperDracos in the place of a parachute during landing.