LOS ANGELES – SpaceX’s planned pad abort test for the Crew Dragon vehicle appears to be staying on track for May 6 following a successful ground firing of thrusters at Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral.

The pad abort test is a key milestone for SpaceX, which plans to use the Crew Dragon for human missions to the International Space Station in 2017. Unlike most pad abort systems, which are based on rocket towers attached to the nose of the spacecraft, the SpaceX system is integrated into the sides of the Crew Dragon vehicle and is designed to provide launch escape capability from the ground all the way to orbit.

SpaceX also has detailed the planned timetable for the May 6 abort test, which begins with the simultaneous ignition of all eight of the vehicle’s SuperDraco thrusters. The combined thrust of the engines is equal to 120,000 lb. of axial thrust, and will propel the spacecraft more than 0.5 km in just more than 5 sec. At T+0.5 sec., the engines will throttle to control the trajectory of the vehicle as it pitches over toward the ocean adjacent to SLC-40.

At T+5 sec. the fuel will be used up and the burn will terminate, allowing the craft to coast for just more than 15 sec. SpaceX estimates the vehicle will reach an apogee of around 1,500 meters during this coast phase. Some 16 sec. later, at T+21, the trunk of the vehicle will be jettisoned and the spacecraft will begin to point its base and heat shield downward.

In the next few seconds after trunk jettison, drogue parachutes will deploy to stabilize the Dragon. At T+35 sec. three main parachutes will deploy to slow the spacecraft before splashdown at T+107 sec. SpaceX estimates this will occur around 2,200 meters (1.4 mi.) downrange of SLC-40.