SpaceX Dragon test firing results in cloud of smoke, called 'anomaly'

Katie Ramirez
April 24, 2019

SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk in 2002, said it had opened an investigation and was committed to ensuring its systems met "rigorous safety standards".

The Crew Dragon (Dragon 2) spacecraft from U.S. private space company SpaceX suffered a problem during static combustion tests of its launch abortion engines, SpaceNews reported, citing a SpaceX spokesman. It hopes to fly astronauts to the space station as soon as this year as part of NASA's "commercial crew program". SpaceX has been preparing the Crew Dragon capsule for a crewed flight to the ISS, which is now scheduled for sometime in July.

With SpaceX and NASA seemingly downplaying the incident, an unverified video leaked online on Sunday, showing the capsule blow up into pieces, to the gasps of the audience that was apparently reviewing and analyzing the 'anomaly'.

Although it is too earlier to speculate at the possible impact the failure will have on the development of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, it is likely that the mishap will delay the launch of the first crewed mission to well into 2020. "We will learn, make the necessary adjustments and safely move forward with our commercial crew program".

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SpaceX said the craft was undergoing a "series of engine tests" at a facility in Cape Canaveral, and something went wrong during the final stretch.

On Saturday, a test version of the Crew Dragon, SpaceX's passenger aircraft, suffered an anomaly during an engine test at the landing site in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

According to Spaceflight Now, the test "sent a reddish-orange plume into the sky visible for miles around", suggesting a fairly serious malfunction of the engine systems. The test firing was a preliminary event leading to a return to manned launches from the United States, which hasn't happened since the last space shuttle lifted off in 2011. That test was expected to take place some time this summer prior to this anomaly.

Though Boeing's Starliner has yet to fly, NASA recently exercised a contract option that would turn its first test flight with a three-person crew, now targeted for November, into a long-duration mission. The spacecraft successfully docked with the space station.

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