SpaceX Crew Dragon suffers apparent explosion on test stand
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A Crew Dragon test article has suffered a setback that could prevent SpaceX from sending people to the International Space Station before the end of the year.
First reported by Florida Today, around 3:30 p.m. EDT (19:30 GMT) April 20, 2019, a lot of orange and black smoke appeared over an area of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, specifically around SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1. There are no reports of injuries.
“Earlier today, SpaceX conducted a series of engine tests on a Crew Dragon test vehicle on our test stand at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral, Florida,” a SpaceX spokesperson told SpaceFlight Insider in an emailed statement. “The initial tests completed successfully but the final test resulted in an anomaly on the test stand.”
It is unclear whether this was the same Crew Dragon capsule that was used for the Demo-1 mission more than a month ago. It was planned to use that same vehicle for an in-flight abort test no earlier than this summer. However, with the anomaly, it appears the schedule could be in doubt. This could likely further delaying the Commercial Crew Program, which has already seen Boeing postpone its first Starliner flights to at least the second half of 2019.
Before the incident, it was expected that, following a successful in-flight abort test, SpaceX would fly a crewed Demo-2 mission no earlier than late July.
“Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting anomalies like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test,” SpaceX’s spokesperson said. “Our teams are investigating and working closely with our NASA partners.”
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine also released a statement:
“The NASA and SpaceX teams are assessing the anomaly that occurred today during a part of the Dragon Super Draco Static Fire Test at SpaceX Landing Zone 1 in Florida. This is why we test. We will learn, make the necessary adjustments and safely move forward with our Commercial Crew Program.”
Yep, this isn’t good… pic.twitter.com/4DwTTjw9MN
— Astronut099 (@Astronut099) April 21, 2019
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a blog about the International Space Station, called Orbital Velocity.