A mysterious but apparently serious incident occurred Saturday in Cape Canaveral, Florida involving the SpaceX capsule meant to carry American astronauts into space late this year, the private company and NASA announced.
United States aerospace manufacturer SpaceX said earlier in the day that an "anomaly" had occurred during the static fire tests of the abort engines of its crewed Dragon spacecraft, also known as Dragon 2.
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. The capsule suffered an explosion and spewed orange-colored smoke at Cape Canaveral where the capsule was being tested.
It was unclear Saturday night if the mishap would affect that timeline.
In a statement on Twitter, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, "This is why we test". "We will learn, make the necessary adjustments and safely move forward". 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.
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SpaceX planned to rapidly reuse Crew Dragon C201 for an upcoming in-flight abort (IFA) test, in which the spacecraft would be required to successfully escape from Falcon 9 at the point of peak aerodynamic stress (Max Q).
SpaceX already flew an uncrewed Dragon to the International Space Station in March 2019 and was supposed to return to the station sometime in July, this time with humans onboard.
During testing Saturday, the SpaceX Crew Dragon, created to ferry humans between Earth and the International Space Station (ISS), suffered "an anomaly". SpaceX will work with NASA to determine what caused the issue. The company holds a separate cargo contract valued at $3.04 billion for 20 space station resupply flights and another contract for an unspecified amount for at least six additional flights through 2024.
Boeing, which is also developing a craft called the Starliner for the Commercial Crew Program, is not slated to begin uncrewed testing for months.