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The mysterious SpaceX Crew Dragon explosion is still being investigated

Published May 29th, 2019 10:12AM EDT
crew dragon expolosion
Image: NASA

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SpaceX has been on a real hot streak as of late, with many successful missions and firsts, like the successful docking of its Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station. A small speed bump in that otherwise smooth road came in late April when a test of the Crew Dragon resulted in an explosion and total loss of the spacecraft.

Details regarding the accident have been hard to come by, and SpaceX waited quite a while before even acknowledging that it had lost the Crew Dragon in the incident. Several weeks have now passed and, despite a small info dump that came over a week after the explosion, the investigation into why the craft detonated remains ongoing.

As SpaceNews reports, a presentation on Wednesday to a committee of the NASA Advisory Council offered a few more details on the explosion and the ongoing investigation.

The error or glitch that caused the explosion is still being referred to as “an anomaly,” which doesn’t tell us anything about the reason the spacecraft self-destructed, but NASA’s Kathy Lueders did offer some insight into the chain of events that immediately followed the incident.

“I will tell you that the team did a great job,” Lueders explained. “The team followed the mishap plan beautifully. All the notifications were made. The SpaceX folks did a tremendous job.”

The Crew Dragon Demo-1 spacecraft, which was the one that suffered the anomaly, was being tested on a static platform when the incident occurred. The SpaceX team was testing its thrusters, including those that would be used for an in-flight abort to push the capsule away from its rocket if a failure or other serious issue was detected in the midst of a launch.

NASA says SpaceX is conducting the investigation into the vehicle failure alongside a team of NASA’s own investigators, and that the findings of the investigation shouldn’t be rushed. However, both NASA and SpaceX will need to ensure the investigation is wrapped up before the Crew Dragon program can push forward and eventually send crewed missions into space.

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