Dragon launch abort tests scheduled

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The competition heats up: SpaceX has scheduled its Dragon launch abort tests for November and January.

The Hawthorne, California-based company plans to conduct a pad abort test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in November, followed by an in-flight abort test from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in January, Garrett Reisman, SpaceX Dragon Rider program manager, said here Aug. 6 at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Space 2014 conference.

In the pad-abort test, Dragon will be mounted to a mocked-up SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and use its hydrazine-fueled SuperDraco thrusters to boost itself up and away from the pad, as it might need to do in the event of a major problem just before or during liftoff. The in-flight test will attempt to repeat the feat at altitude.

In related news, two former SpaceX employees who were terminated in July when the company laid off about 400 people in an annual restructuring of its workforce have sued the company for not giving them ample notice as required by California law.

The California law is pretty clear, which means these employees will likely win, which also sounds to me like a good reason to shift SpaceX’s entire operation to Texas and its new spaceport in Brownsville.



  • mpthompson

    I doubt we’ll see SpaceX move operations and assembly of the Falcon 9 out of California. The company has been granted some very significant tax incentives to keep those operations in California and there would be significant penalties to the company for moving out of California before 2022. SpaceX is re-learning the meaning of the old saying: If you accept the King’s shilling, you accept the King’s regulations.

    As much as I like and respect what Elon Musk is doing for commercial space, he certainly appears to have some crony capitalist tendencies that puts a damper on some of the enthusiasm I have for him.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Agree about the SpaceX Hawthorne works staying put. Apart from whatever state tax penalties might apply – and I’m not aware that there are any such penalties as part of the tax break in question – SpaceX recently did a sale-leaseback deal for the Hawthorne plant that commits them to remain thru 2023. More germane is that SpaceX is pushing hard to get its Falcon 9 core production rate up to two per month on the way to doing 40 per year. They aren’t going to get there by suddenly moving their plant to Texas.

    As to the tax break SpaceX lobbied for, so did Virgin Galactic, Stratolaunch and all the other smaller fry up at Mojave who will also enjoy said break. An industry-preferential tax provision it certainly is, but it’s hardly a custom carve-out for SpaceX alone. “Crony capitalism” is not an accurate description of this tax law change.

  • Dick Eagleson

    As to the disgruntled ex-employees, it’s not obvious that what SpaceX did would qualify as a “layoff” under applicable California law. If SpaceX should lose the suit, though, it will hardly be a calamity. And it might result in SpaceX doing employee evaluations on hire date anniversaries and letting underachievers go, piecemeal, throughout the year.

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