ORLANDO, FLORIDA – Those eagerly awaiting the return of human spaceflight launched from US soil must continue to wait. SpaceX’s In-Flight Abort Test (IFA) has been pushed back once again, this time to Jan. 18, 2020. This news flew under the radar for many space enthusiasts, myself included, in all the hullabaloo of the failure of Boeing’s Starliner to reach the ISS in their Orbital Flight Test.
This is the second time the IFA has been delayed. It was originally scheduled for Jan. 4, and then rescheduled for Jan. 11. This delay allows the SpaceX team a few extra days to ramp down from the Starlink 2 launch, happening today (Jan. 6). No reason was given in the NASA Update message dated Dec. 18, 2019.
During the IFA, SpaceX will launch a Crew Dragon capsule aboard a Falcon 9 launch vehicle. At the point of maximum dynamic pressure (Max-Q) a signal will be sent to the Crew Dragon that the rocket is in trouble, at which time the Crew Dragon will perform an abort maneuver, pulling itself away from the rocket and splashing down in the Atlantic under parachutes. This test will most likely cause the rapid destruction of the rocket itself. So, this will be a must watch even for people on the Space Coast. It is not every day you get to see a company intentionally destroy a rocket.