The Crew Dragon capsule blasts away from the purposely shut down Falcon 9 rocket. Image from SpaceX video

SpaceX successfully demonstrated the ability of it’s Crew Dragon capsule to blast away from a malfunctioning rocket and land safely during a Sunday morning test.

The demonstration flight from Cape Canaveral clears the way for the Los Angeles-based company to begin sending astronauts to the International Space Station, potentially as soon as this spring.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rose from the pad at 7:30 a.m. Pacific Time. A minute-and-a-half into the flight, the rockets’ engines shut down, simulating a malfunction. At that point the Crew Dragon’s powerful abort engines accelerated the capsule away from the rocket, which then appeared to explode under aerodynamic stress.

Minutes later four large parachutes were deployed, and the capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean about 20 miles from Cape Canaveral.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine congratulated SpaceX on the successful test, which follows an incident last April in which a Crew Dragon’s abort engines exploded during a ground test.

“Congratulations to the NASA and SpaceX team for a successful In-Flight Abort Test! This critical test puts us on the cusp of once again launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” Bridenstine said.

The giant parachutes as seen from the Crew Dragon capsule. Courtesy SpaceX
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