SpaceX has been in the news for the first successful test of the Dragon crew capsule’s launch abort system.
The media attention has focused on the concept of a crew escape system. But the real star of this test was the SuperDraco rocket engines that powered it.
The Dragon was expected to reach an altitude of nearly 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) under the power of its eight SuperDraco launch abort engines, which are built directly into the side of the capsule.
“What SpaceX is doing is certainly unique,” said Jon Cowart, NASA’s commercial crew program manager, of the company’s decision to mount its SuperDraco engines on the sides of Dragon. “It’s definitely revolutionary in that regard.”
While the SuperDraco engines can be used to eject the crew capsule in case of emergency, they are really designed to bring the capsule down in a controlled landing… on another planet.
These are the same engines that SpaceX plans to utilize to gently place humans on the surface of Mars. How do they build such a revolutionary propulsion system? It’s 2015, they 3D print them of course!