SpaceX confirms Dragon capsule explosion, casts doubt on NASA's astronaut missions

NASA & SpaceX need to work overtime to find the anomaly, find a fix before planned crewed mission in 2019.

Late in April, news and a video of a SpaceX Dragon capsule exploding found its way to the public on Twitter. SpaceX confirmed for the first time since the incident that the "anomaly" did, in fact, cause an explosion in which the capsule was destroyed completely.

The capsule was the very same one sent to the International Space Station in March on the SpaceX Dragon capsule's 'Demo-1' mission. According to a report in CNBC, both NASA and SpaceX are working jointly to investigate what the malfunction was.

"Here’s what we can confirm ... just prior to when we wanted to fire the SuperDraco, there was an anomaly, and the vehicle was destroyed,” Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of the mission told the press Thursday.

The leaked video of the explosion was posted on Twitter, and later verified by a NASA lawyer. Both SpaceX and NASA have kept mum about what resulted in the malfunction during engine tests on 25 April.

NASA has its hopes and money riding on SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS, after its contract with the Russian space agency expired in 2014. SpaceX won the $2.6-billion contract from NASA to design & build Crew Dragon. The capsule was also pegged to fulfill future contracts to fly three to four astronauts to the space station at a time.

SpaceX confirms Dragon capsule explosion, casts doubt on NASAs astronaut missions

SpaceX's new Dragon capsule next to the Falcon 9 rocket, Image: Twitter/SpaceX

The first manned mission to the space station on Crew Dragon has also been planned for later this year. The capsule that exploded was to be reused for another full-scale test of the capsule's abort system this year, which would allow it to return safely to Earth in case of an emergency.

SpaceX and NASA now need to work together to quickly learn what caused the explosion and replace the capsule which was intended to begin shuttling American astronauts to space and back in 2019.

With inputs from AFP

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