A SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft has suffered a catastrophic failure that has reportedly “all but destroyed” the vehicle. The failure occurred during testing of the spacecraft’s Draco and SuperDraco thrusters with the anomaly occurring during the testing of the later.
Notice: It is unclear where the footage of the explosion featured in this Tweet came from and SpaceX have yet to authenticated it.
Yep, this isn’t good… pic.twitter.com/4DwTTjw9MN
— Astronut099 (@Astronut099) April 21, 2019
The Crew Dragon spacecraft was launched for the first time on an uncrewed test mission earlier the year. The vehicle was recovered successfully after a short stay docked to the International Space Station and was set to be reused for an inflight abort test this summer. In preparation for the abort test, SpaceX crews had been refurbishing and testing the vehicle to ensure that its contact with the salty water of the Atlantic would not cause any problems.
Yesterday, the California-based launch provider was conducting testing of the vehicle’s Draco and SuperDraco thrusters. The Crew Dragon vehicle has four thruster pods that each have two Draco thrusters and two SuperDraco thrusters. The Draco thrusters are used for in-orbit maneuvering and to perform reentry burns. The SuperDraco thrusters are used for emergency aborts and had originally been designed to also offer propulsive landing capabilities.
Following reports of the failure late yesterday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine released a statement on Twitter.
“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,” wrote Bridenstine. “This is why we test. We will learn, make the necessary adjustments and safely move forward with our Commercial Crew Program.”
Although it is too earlier to speculate at the possible impact the failure will have on the development of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, it is likely that the mishap will delay the launch of the first crewed mission to well into 2020.