SpaceX, the company developing the Crew Dragon capsule, has acknowledged that an anomaly occurred while tests were being made on the ground on 20 April. However, eye witnesses say that huge clouds of smoke were seen rising from the test site at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It seems that there were no injuries and the situation is now under control, according to officials from the 45th Space Wing based at the Air Force station:
“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 initial tests completed successfully but the final test resulted in an anomaly on the test stand.”
The SpaceX plan is to develop a private alternative of sending people out in space to and from the International Space Station (ISS), their Crew Dragon being able to sit up to seven astronauts to space and return them to Earth. Although not confirmed, it seems that the capsule that exploded is the one that successfully carried supplies and a dummy to the ISS back in March.
Their efforts are being made in order to provide the US with their own shuttle to transport people in space, since their space shuttle was retired in 2011 and are now relying on Russia to send people in space. Being one of the two companies working under a NASA contract to ferry astronauts crews to space, the other company is Boeing which is developing its own crewed spacecraft called CST-100 Starliner capsule.
The previous flight from March was a major milestone for SpaceX, and the company is now planning to perform an inflight abort test which will show if the capsule is capable of keeping astronauts safe in case something goes wrong during the launch into orbit. The company has planned to conduct that test sometime in June, although it is not clear if that same Dragon was the one used in April’s test, and the company has not yet said which engine was to blame for the anomaly. SpaceX stated:
“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.”