If you aren’t keeping tabs with everything SpaceX is doing – change that.

Elon Musk’s space company is probably best known for its tests to land the first stage of their Falcon 9 rocket.

Today, SpaceX conducted a new test. It wasn’t quite as big as re-landing a rocket, but it could one day save astronauts’ lives.

At 9 a.m. ET, SpaceX’s Dragon 2 – also called Crew Dragon – shot up into the air above Cape Canaveral.

dragon 2 capsule test

The capsule’s eight engines fired for about six seconds and sent the capsule about a mile into the air. As it fell back to Earth, three parachutes ensured the capsule made a soft splashdown just off the coast.

dragon capsule parachutes

Here’s the full video of the launch and landing.

Why was the capsule not attached to a rocket?

Today’s launch was designed to test the capsule’s SuperDraco engines. These engines are vital in case of an emergency. If a rocket were to malfunction, the engines would light and carry the capsule away from the rocket. It gives officials another failsafe in case they need to abort a mission during liftoff.

SpaceX also threw in a test dummy with a variety of sensors to see how a real astronaut would have fared during the test flight.

The next test will be a lot harder

Today’s test was easy compared to what’s next. SpaceX is planning a second test later this year. The Dragon 2 capsule will be attached to a rocket in flight for the second test.

SpaceX called today’s test, “the 1st critical test in prep for human missions.”

These tests will pave the way for SpaceX to send its first human into space. That could happen as early as 2017.

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SpaceX also released a video of this morning’s test. You get a good look at the Dragon 2 capsule from several different angles.

What’s next for SpaceX? They will give the rocket landing test another go on June 19. The last landing was close. Maybe third time’s the charm?

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