SpaceX has confirmed that its Crew Dragon capsule was destroyed during an engine test last month, possibly causing a drag to the company's plan to bring astronauts into space this year.
On April 20, an anomaly occurred during a testing of the Crew Dragon's abort engines at a landing zone of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, but the private space company had not clarified whether the capsule, launched successfully into space in an unmanned mission in March, was destroyed or not, until Thursday.
Before firing the abort engines, "there was an anomaly and the vehicle was destroyed," said Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of Build and Flight Reliability at SpaceX at a press conference to brief the company's planned cargo launch mission on Friday, Xinhua reported.
Koenigsmann said initial data indicated that the anomaly occurred during the activation of the engine SuperDraco, but he said he did not believe the engines themselves caused the accident. He also said it's too early to identify the cause of the mishap.
The accident may delay SpaceX and the US space agency NASA's plan to launch astronauts to the International Space Station by the end of year.
Before the anomaly, SpaceX planned to have a "launch abort" test with the damaged Crew Dragon vehicle in summer. Now it had to use a new one and Koenigsmann said more crew Dragons are being built.
"It's certainly not great news overall, but I hope we can recover," said Koenigsmann.
The accident also affected the upcoming cargo flight, since the reusable first stage of Flacon 9 rocket that will bring cargo Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS) was previously scheduled to land back to the landing zone. Now, it will land on a drone ship off the coast instead.