A SpaceX spacecraft has apparently exploded during a test in Florida. A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule designed to carry astronauts to space was photographed engulfed in smoke and flames on an engine test stand at the test site at the Kennedy Space Center. According to reports, both the capsule and the test stand were lost. SpaceX said the test area was clear and no one was injured.
The cause of the catastrophe remains unknown. The company has only acknowledged that an “anomaly” occurred. The incident occurred during a test of the company’s SuperDraco escape engines, but it is unclear whether the engines contributed to the disaster.
The Crew Dragon capsule is designed to carry up to seven astronauts to space and to return them to Earth. The SuperDraco escape engines are designed to get astronauts out of harm’s way in the event of a launch emergency, allowing the capsule to fly away to safety. NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said in a statement, “This is why we test. We will learn, make the necessary adjustments and safely move forward with our Commercial Crew Program.”
The same capsule that exploded recently flew a successful uncrewed demonstration mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Last month, the spacecraft delivered supplies and a dummy dubbed Ripley in a flawless test flight. According to NASA, SpaceX’s Dragon cargo capsule launch scheduled for April 30 remains on track. The supply ship will launch from Cape Canaveral.
This particular spacecraft was scheduled to perform an in-flight abort trial this June. If successful, a crewed demonstration mission could have taken place as early as July. While those dates will now surely change, specific target launch dates will probably not be given until an investigation into the accident has been completed. In the meantime, SpaceX will continue working towards its first crewed journey to the ISS for NASA.