SpaceX confirms unmanned crew capsule destroyed in April ground test


"Forty-fifth Space Wing Spokesman Jim Williams informs Florida Today the anomaly happened Saturday in Cape Canaveral Air Force Station while the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule was experiencing a" static evaluation flame".

SpaceX moved the landing offshore after an April 20 test failure at one of its landing pads destroyed a Crew Dragon capsule.

This cargo Dragon, flying a mission designed CRS-17, previously flew to the station on the CRS-12 mission in August 2017.

Koenigsmann said initial data indicated that the anomaly occurred during the activation of the engine SuperDraco, but he said he didn't believe the engines themselves caused the accident.

- A SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule is set to be launched into orbit early Friday morning, atop a Falcon 9 rocket. As part of a contract for 20 missions in total, this will be SpaceX's 17th supply mission to the space station for NASA.

Koenigsmann wouldn't say how the lost Dragon would affect the likelihood that the first crewed launch of the spacecraft would occur this year, as both SpaceX and NASA hope. They weren't used during the test flight to the space station in March.

SpaceX was going to launch the newly returned crew Dragon in another test this summer, to see how the SuperDraco thrusters work in an aborted flight. The company got $2.6 billion from NASA to build its Crew Dragon.

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NASA and SpaceX later admitted that the test resulted in "an anomaly", but didn't provide any details of the incident and stopped short of explaining the clouds of smoke billowing over the Kennedy Space Center that day, which were observed by many witnesses. He noted SpaceX has "multiple spacecraft" in various stages of production, which he said should mitigate any effect the loss of this capsule will have on the test flight schedule.

"We have no reason to believe there is an issue with the SuperDracos themselves", Koenigsmann said, adding that the engines have been tested almost 600 times in the past.

"We have tons of data, but we don't have now something we can say, oh, it was most likely this or that", he said.

"Finishing the investigation and resolving this anomaly is actually our prime focus, certainly for me, right now", he said.

Boeing also has encountered recent delays with its Starliner crew capsules.

The company still needs to conduct a launch-abort test, before astronauts strap in.