SpaceX's Crew Dragon suffers apparent explosion on test stand

Katie Ramirez
December 1, 2019

The issue was earlier reported by Florida Today, which said orange smoke was seen rising above SpaceX's facilities, and that the anomaly was contained with no injuries. The ground test anomaly came from an engine test, specifically the SuperDraco engines which provide power for astronauts to get to safety during an aborted launch.

In a statement, a SpaceX spokesperson confirmed there was a problem of some kind during tests of the spacecraft at Landing Zone 1, the former Launch Complex 13 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, but provided few details about the what happened.

The vehicle, carrying a human-sized dummy nicknamed "Ripley" and a plush globe-shaped toy that quickly sold out back on Earth, successfully docked with the International Space Station, and safely splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean after its six-day mission, marking a significant milestone in the development of new American human-rated spacecraft.

Needless to say, this is a setback for SpaceX and NASA in that it could derail plans to fly astronauts aboard the capsule later this year.

It is not immediately clear if this proposed test stand was to be used during Saturday's planned static fires, although the testing occurred in the vicinity of SpaceX's Landing Zone 1. "The initial tests completed successfully but the final test resulted in an anomaly on the test stand". However, with the anomaly, it appears the schedule could be in doubt.

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Yesterday we talked a bit about a serious failure of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule during testing. But the space agency revealed in February that it would try to secure two more seats - one on a flight that would depart later this year and another on a mission scheduled for spring 2020 - to assure "continuous safe operation and research activity on ISS".

The uncrewed abort test is a necessary step toward sending astronauts to the space station on a different Crew Dragon by as early as July. That test was expected to take place some time this summer prior to this anomaly.

SpaceX said its teams are investigating and are working closely with US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) partners.

The exact timeframe for the Demo-2 mission is now under evaluation from the NASA and SpaceX teams.

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