Nearly two weeks after the event, SpaceX has confirmed that its Crew Dragon capsule was destroyed during ground testing on April 20 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. As previously reported by AVweb, the incident occurred during tests of the capsule’s abort thrusters. According to SpaceX Vice President of Build and Flight Reliability Hans Koenigsmann, the problem arose between firing the smaller Draco maneuvering thrusters and the SuperDraco abort engines.
“We fired them in two sets each for five seconds, and that went very well,” said Koenigsmann. “And then, just prior, before we wanted to fire the SuperDracos, there was an anomaly and the vehicle was destroyed … initial data indicates that the anomaly occurred during the activation of the SuperDraco system.” Koenigsmann went on to say that while it is too early to determine the cause of the incident, they do have a “high amount” of data from the vehicle and ground sensors. No one was injured in the incident.
At this point, SpaceX says it does not believe there is an issue with the SuperDraco design. According to Koenigsmann, the system has undergone more than 600 tests at SpaceX’s test facility in Texas including pad abort and hover testing. The capsule, which flew its first successful unmanned test mission in March, was scheduled for its first crewed flight in July. It is not yet clear how the capsule’s destruction will affect the timing of that mission.