By Alison Fox
January 21, 2020

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft lifts off from pad 39A for the In-Flight Abort Test. 

NurPhoto/Getty Images

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is a step closer to realizing its commercial space dreams after a rocket exploded this weekend —intentionally.

Deliberately blowing up one of its Falcon 9 rockets was an important safety test to simulate what would happen if there was an engine failure during a flight, according to reports. The rocket, topped by the company’s Crew Dragon spaceship, took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday before the company cut its nine engines 84 seconds into the flight, Business Insider reported.

The spaceship safely detached and the rocket, which had been hurtling through the air at almost twice the speed of sound, broke apart and blew up in a spectacular fiery explosion. The Crew Dragon, which had detached at 4 minutes 45 seconds into the flight, then deployed parachutes and splashed down safely in the Atlantic Ocean, according to SpaceX.

SpaceX tweeted the planned explosion “verified the spacecraft’s ability to carry astronauts to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency on ascent.”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine congratulated SpaceX on Twitter, adding: “This critical test puts us on the cusp of once again launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. Spacecraft recovery operations are underway.”

After it splashed into the Ocean, Bridenstine tweeted that the Crew Dragon had been recovered and brought back to Cape Canaveral.

For his part, Musk called the test “a risky mission, as it’s pushing the envelope in so many ways” on Twitter and added that the “Dragon trunk from in-flight abort test is in surprisingly good shape!”

Following the explosion test, the company proceeded to test  the engines of its rocket in what is called a static-fire test, a critical pre-launch test, Space.com reported on Tuesday. The company said it now planned to launch 60 Starlink satellites into space with the rocket.

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