Something went awry in a test of SpaceX’s astronaut capsule

The Air Force’s 45th Space Wing confirmed that the anomaly was contained and no one was injured.

By Chabeli Herrera / Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. — A SpaceX Crew Dragon test capsule suffered an anomaly at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Saturday afternoon, sending plumes of smoke into the sky over the Space Coast.

According to a statement from SpaceX, the vehicle was on the test stand at Landing Zone 1 at the Cape undergoing a “series of engine tests” when the issue happened.

“The initial tests completed successfully but the final test resulted in an anomaly on the test stand,” SpaceX said in a statement. “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.”

The Air Force’s 45th Space Wing confirmed that the anomaly, first reported by Florida Today, was contained and no one was injured.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement Saturday night that the issue occurred during a static fire test of the capsule’s eight powerful SuperDraco engines, which each have 16,000 pounds of thrust.

“This is why we test,” Bridenstine said. “We will learn, make the necessary adjustments and safely move forward with our Commercial Crew Program.”

SpaceX is developing its Crew Dragon capsule under a $2.6 billion contract for NASA, called Commercial Crew, to transport astronauts to the International Space Station.

The Elon Musk-led company conducted a successful test of the capsule without crew in March.

The company was scheduled to perform a test of the vehicle with crew aboard as early as July, as well as an in-flight abort test prior to the crewed test.

It was unclear Saturday night if the mishap would affect that timeline.

NASA announced early this month that it would be reevaluating its target test dates for SpaceX “in the next couple weeks,” but no new schedule has been released.

It is unclear exactly which version of the Crew Dragon spacecraft was involved in the anomaly, but the company conducts routine testing on its engines.

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