SpaceX Crew Dragon suffers 'anomaly' during engine testing

Orange smoke was seen billowing from Landing Zone 1 during testing of the Crew Dragon capsule.

Jackson Ryan Former Science Editor
Jackson Ryan was CNET's science editor, and a multiple award-winning one at that. Earlier, he'd been a scientist, but he realized he wasn't very happy sitting at a lab bench all day. Science writing, he realized, was the best job in the world -- it let him tell stories about space, the planet, climate change and the people working at the frontiers of human knowledge. He also owns a lot of ugly Christmas sweaters.
Jackson Ryan
2 min read

The SpaceX Crew Dragon during testing in an anechoic chamber earlier in 2018.

Elon Musk

During testing Saturday, the SpaceX Crew Dragon, designed to ferry humans between Earth and the International Space Station (ISS), suffered "an anomaly." According to reports by Florida Today, orange plumes of smoke were seen billowing for miles from Cape Canaveral, Florida, where the testing was taking place.

"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," a SpaceX spokesperson said. "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."

A spokesman for the 45th Space Wing, which commands Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, confirmed to Florida Today that no one was injured.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine responded to the incident with a short statement on Twitter Saturday.

The Crew Dragon successfully rendezvoused with the space station on March 8, during an uncrewed test launch. SpaceX has been preparing the Crew Dragon capsule for a crewed flight to the ISS, which is currently scheduled for sometime in July. As part of the routine testing and safety requirements, the Crew Dragon first has to complete an "in-flight abort test," where the crew capsule is jettisoned from the rocket by a set of boosters.

It's currently unclear how the anomaly will affect future flights of the Crew Dragon, but it's reasonable to suggest such an incident will delay the launch of a crewed SpaceX flight by months.

Meet the SpaceX Falcon Heavy, the world's most powerful rocket

See all photos

Originally posted April 20, 4:09 p.m. PT
Updated 6:14 p.m. PT: Adds NASA Administrator statement