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SpaceX crew capsule test suffers 'anomaly'

Posted on Sunday, 21 April, 2019 | Comment icon 10 comments

An artist's impression of the Crew Dragon in orbit. Image Credit: NASA / SpaceX
An engine test of the Crew Dragon capsule resulted in plumes of smoke rising from Cape Canaveral yesterday.
Things had been looking good for the new manned space vehicle which had been set to carry its first astronauts up to the International Space Station later this year following a series of successful tests.

An 'anomaly' encountered during an engine test yesterday however has since cast all this in to doubt.

Nobody was injured and the problem was soon under control, however it remains unclear exactly what happened and how the incident might impact the capsule's next scheduled test flight.

"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," SpaceX said in a statement.

"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."

Source: | Comments (10)

Tags: SpaceX, Crew Dragon

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by OverSword on 21 April, 2019, 20:20
Comment icon #2 Posted by esoteric_toad on 22 April, 2019, 11:07
By anomaly they mean, it exploded. It happens though, that is what testing is for. Better to have an anomaly now when it is on the ground with no one in it than later.
Comment icon #3 Posted by fred_mc on 22 April, 2019, 13:01
Yes, in contrast to Star Trek where "anomaly" means something very exciting and interesting :-) .
Comment icon #4 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 22 April, 2019, 13:58
That is true, however there shouldn't be catastrophic failures this late in development. The capsule that was destroyed was the one that flew the uncrewed mission to the ISS last month. It was due to make another flight soon. It was the capsule that was supposed to prove that the abort system works. It's next mission was to simulate an abort from a Falcon 9 in flight. It was the very engines that were to be tested that exploded. The capsule was destroyed, if this happened with astronauts aboard they would have been killed. There is absolutely no way that the Crew Dragon can now make it's first... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by cyclopes500 on 22 April, 2019, 14:22
It wouldn't be industrial sabotage done on behalf of Boeing would it?
Comment icon #6 Posted by BorizBadinov on 22 April, 2019, 16:23
Sadly with mechanical things not every failure can be detected or avoided prematurely no matter how many checks are in place. Catastrophic failures seem to happen at all stages from new design to retirement stage. Sometimes negligence or complacency, sometimes quality, sometimes structural fatigue. Hopefully they are a rarity and not the norm. This one does sting though, but much better now than later. Hopefully they can learn from it at least.
Comment icon #7 Posted by esoteric_toad on 22 April, 2019, 18:31
How many test flights did the Apollo crew capsule undergo?
Comment icon #8 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 23 April, 2019, 11:10
It had two suborbital and two-orbital unscrewed flights before the first crewed Earth orbital flight of Apollo 7.The fatal Apollo 1 fire occurred after the two suborbital, but before the orbital flights.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 23 April, 2019, 11:45
Absolutely, the two shuttle accident showed that spaceflight is dangerous, even on an operational spacecraft. Structural fatigue should not be an issue, this was a new spacecraft that had made only one flight, and the SuperDraco's were not used on that flight. As an early test vehicle quality should also not be an issue. That would seem to leave human error or a major design fault. Human error would be the best outcome for SpaceX as it can be much more easily rectified. This is particularly true if that error is specific to the ground test, as it would not impact on an orbital flight. If it is... [More]
Comment icon #10 Posted by BorizBadinov on 23 April, 2019, 13:55
@Waspie_Dwarf thank you for the informative reply, it was quite an interesting read. I agree structural fatigue should not have been an issue in this case unless the design incorporated some new material or technique that degraded rapidly. Temperature extremes can cause this in certain materials but most of that data should be well understood. From what I can gather it sounds like a similar leak issue potentially since the explosion was allegedly pre-ignition. It's been implied that since it was a ground based test that there was extra data collection instrumentation so I am hopeful SpaceX eng... [More]

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