SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft suffers anomaly during ground tests

SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule suffers an anomaly during its Florida engine test

The Falcon 9 Heavy lifting off from the historic Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre

"Earlier today, SpaceX conducted a series of engine tests on a Crew Dragon test vehicle on our test stand at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral, Florida".

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.

The tests were carried out on Saturday at SpaceX's test stand in Cape Canaveral, located in the southeastern U.S. state of Florida.

SpaceX in a statement to UPI said, "Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting anomalies like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test".

A SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft has suffered a catastrophic failure that has reportedly "all but destroyed" the vehicle.

"We will work closely to ensure we safely move forward with our Commercial Crew Program", Bridenstine wrote on Twitter.

During the test, eight SuperDraco engines - which are embedded in the Dragon's hull - will fire, demonstrating that the spacecraft can pull itself away from the rocket. During the uncrewed mission, the spacecraft docked itself with the space station and then returned to Earth, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX is building another Crew Dragon capsule that is set to carry astronauts in the crewed flight test. But the space agency revealed in February that it would try to secure two more seats - one on a flight that would depart later this year and another on a mission scheduled for spring 2020 - to assure "continuous safe operation and research activity on ISS". "The NASA and SpaceX teams are assessing the anomaly that occurred today", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed. The second crewed flight should take place before the end of the year. The capsule successfully flew for the first time in March.

The so-called "anomaly" occurred during testing of the SuperDraco thrusters-part of the Crew Dragon's launch abort system-SpaceNews explained.

In March, the privately owned SpaceX successfully completed its mission of sending an unmanned capsule to the International Space Station and returned safely to Earth, a mission seen as crucial to NASA's plans to resume human space flight from US soil.

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