SpaceX successfully tests Crew Dragon capsule

Posted at 12:13 PM, May 06, 2015

(CNN) — It was a very short flight, but it made history.

SpaceX successfully tested its Crew Dragon spacecraft in a flight that lasted less than 2 minutes.

The flight took off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida early Wednesday. It did not have crew members on board.

The test was meant to prove to NASA that the SpaceX crew escape system would work properly if there’s an emergency during a flight with people on board. It’s all part of the process of certifying SpaceX to become the first private company to carry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

“This is what SpaceX was basically founded for, human spaceflight,” Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of Mission Assurance with SpaceX, said in a NASA news release. “The pad abort is going to show that we’ve developed a revolutionary system for the safety of the astronauts, and this test is going to show how it works. It’s our first big test on the Crew Dragon.”

The test seemed to go well: A rocket with eight SuperDraco engines lifted the spacecraft about 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) into the air. The crew module separated from its trunk — the part that connects the module to the rocket. Then, parachutes opened and the capsule floated into the Atlantic Ocean off the Cape.

Recovery crews will fish the module from the ocean.

SpaceX, the company founded by billionaire Elon Musk, already flies a version of the Dragon to deliver cargo to the space station. This test capsule was configured to hold people, but only a human-sized test dummy that SpaceX calls Buster was on board.

NASA engineers will work with SpaceX to go through the data gathered Wednesday and will weigh in later on any problems — and let us know how Buster fared.

This isn’t the last test for SpaceX before NASA clears the company to fly astronauts. A few months from now, SpaceX says it will put the Crew Dragon through another in-flight abort test from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.