SpaceX has experienced a problem during the testing of its Crew Dragon capsule, according to numerous witnesses in Florida. During the engine test firing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station yesterday afternoon, an unspecified anomaly occurred.
This led to plumes of smoke rising from the test site, which were apparently visible for miles. According to Florida Today, photographer Craig Bailey who was covering a surf fest in nearby Cocoa Beach captured an image of orange smoke rising from SpaceX facilities at around 3:30 p.m.
In a statement, SpaceX confirmed the anomaly: “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,” the statement said. “The initial tests completed successfully but the final test resulted in an anomaly on the test stand. Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting anomalies like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test. Our teams are investigating and working closely with our NASA partners.”
There were no reported injuries from the incident, although it is possible that anomaly could affect future SpaceX launch schedules. It is not clear how much damage was done to the test vehicle or to other nearby equipment, but unconfirmed reports have suggested that the capsule may have exploded. Other than the brief statement above, SpaceX has remained tip-lipped about what occurred during the testing and what effects the incident may have on future plans.
The Crew Dragon is intended to ferry astronauts between Earth and the International Space Station (ISS), and previous tests have included carrying a mannequin to the ISS and splashing down the capsule into the Atlantic Ocean.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed the news on Twitter, saying, “NASA has been notified about the results of the @SpaceX Static Fire Test and the anomaly that occurred during the final test. We will work closely to ensure we safely move forward with our Commercial Crew Program.” He noted that NASA and SpaceX will be assessing the causes of the anomaly and making necessary adjustments. “This is why we test,” he reminded readers. “We will learn, make the necessary adjustments and safely move forward.”
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