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SpaceX to try rocket failure test again after bad weather delay

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01/19/2020 | 12:12am EST

Elon Musk's SpaceX will try again on Sunday to destroy one of its own rockets in a test of a crucial emergency abort system, a day after bad weather forced the company to delay its final milestone test before flying NASA astronauts from U.S. soil.

High winds and choppy seas in the area where the spacecraft was expected to splashdown on Saturday delayed the dramatic inflight test of the unmanned astronaut capsule to Sunday, with a longer six-hour launch window starting at 8 a.m. EST.

If the test goes ahead, SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, an acorn-shaped pod that can seat seven astronauts, will fire thrusters to detach itself from a Falcon 9 rocket less than two minutes after liftoff, simulating an emergency abort scenario to prove it can return astronauts to safety.

The test is crucial to qualify the capsule to fly humans to the International Space Station, a feat the National Aeronautics and Space Administration expects to come as soon as mid-2020. It follows years of development and delays as the United States has sought to revive its human spaceflight program through private partnerships.

NASA awarded $4.2 billion (3.23 billion pounds) to Boeing and $2.5 billion to SpaceX in 2014 to develop separate capsule systems capable of ferrying astronauts to the space station from U.S. soil for the first time since NASA's space shuttle program ended in 2011. The space agency has since relied on Russian spacecraft for rides to the space station.

During the test the Falcon 9 rocket's boosters will shut down roughly 12 miles (19 km) above the ocean, a mock failure that will trigger Crew Dragon's so-called SuperDraco thrusters to jet itself away at supersonic speeds of up to 1,500 miles per hour (2,400 kph).

The capsule will deploy three parachutes to slow its descent to the water, and will carry aboard two human-shaped test dummies fitted with motion sensors to collect data on the immense g-force — the effect of acceleration on the body — astronauts would be subjected to during abort.

The test was originally scheduled for mid-2019 but was delayed after a Crew Dragon capsule exploded in April on a test stand just before firing its launch abort thrusters, triggering a lengthy investigation.

SpaceX-led investigators in July zeroed in on a previously unknown explosive reaction between a titanium valve and a propellant used to ignite the thrusters. A SpaceX official said the company completed the investigation within the last week.

By Joey Roulette

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Financials (USD)
Sales 2020 90 942 M
EBIT 2020 5 632 M
Net income 2020 3 814 M
Debt 2020 26 795 M
Yield 2020 2,68%
P/E ratio 2020 45,2x
P/E ratio 2021 16,9x
EV / Sales2020 2,19x
EV / Sales2021 1,68x
Capitalization 172 B
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Last Close Price 305,59  $
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David L. Calhoun President, Chief Executive Officer & Director
Lawrence W. Kellner Non-Executive Chairman
Jenette E. Ramos Senior Vice President-Supply Chain & Operations
Gregory D. Smith CFO, EVP-Enterprise Performance & Strategy
Theodore Colbert Executive Vice President
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