SpaceX has verified that the Crew Dragon capsule experienced an explosion during a recent test. This event took place weeks before the Crew Dragon was planned to take astronauts to the International Space Station.
The vice president of mission assurance for SpaceX, Hans Koenigsmann said at a press briefing that the Crew Dragon capsule was destroyed during a test last month where it exploded only weeks before it was scheduled to take NASA astronauts to the ISS. He said, ‘Just prior to when we wanted to fire the SuperDraco, there was an anomaly, and the vehicle was destroyed. While it is too early to confirm any cause, whether probable or crude, the initial data indicates that the anomaly occurred during the activation of the SuperDraco system.’
The Crew Dragon capsule that was destroyed is the same capsule that was utilized during the SpaceX’s Demo-1, the non-crew test flight in March where it was able to successfully dock with the ISS before making its journey back to Earth without any issue. This is not the only Crew Dragon capsule that SpaceX has, but until the cause for the explosion is identified, SpaceX can’t be certain if the problem is a design flaw or because of the damage that the capsule sustained during the Demo-1 mission.
NASA officials are working in collaboration with SpaceX for determining the cause of the explosion. NASA has given SpaceX a $2.6 billion contract for developing the Crew Dragon capsule that NASA was intending to use for returning human space flight back to US soil. NASA will now have to pay Russia for flying American astronauts to the ISS on Russian Soyuz rocket. Following the last month’s explosion, SpaceX won’t be able to start crewed mission to space until 2020, according to reports.
Koenigsmann also said in his statement, ‘While it is too early to confirm any cause, whether probable or crude, the initial data indicates that the anomaly occurred during the activation of the SuperDraco system. That said, we’re looking at all possible issues, and the investigation is ongoing.
There are no serious problems with the SuperDracos themselves. Those have been through about 600 tests at our test facility in Texas, and you also know about the pad abort, we did some hover tests, so there was a lot of testing on the SuperDraco, and we proceed to have high conviction in that particular thruster.’