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SpaceX’s test of its Crew Dragon Capsule has ended in smoke

April 22, 2019

The failure of the uncrewed test likely means that astronauts won’t be heading back to space from US soil for a while yet.

The news: During a static fire test of the Dragon Super Draco Engines, the capsule suffered an “anomaly” that produced excessive amounts of smoke on the platform at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The capsule in the test was the one successfully used in the DM-1 uncrewed launch to the International Space Station in March. 

So what happened? Not a lot of detail has been supplied yet. An unconfirmed, leaked video of the test shows the capsule engulfed in flame that appears to originate from the top of the craft. If the video is accurate, the capsule was likely destroyed.

What it means: SpaceX has bounced back quickly from setbacks before, but with human lives on the line, substantial delays are likely while the company works to fix whatever went wrong. Boeing also recently pushed back test dates for its crew vehicle, so the launch date for humans from US soil may have to wait until 2020. “This is why we test. We will learn, make the necessary adjustments and safely move forward with the Commercial Crew Program,” NASA adminstrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement on Twitter.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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