KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — SpaceX has confirmed speculation that its Crew Dragon capsule was destroyed in an explosion during a test in April.
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The news was confirmed during a news conference from Kennedy Space Center on Thursday with NASA officials ahead of a Friday SpaceX launch to send supplies to the International Space Station.
During a static fire test of a Crew Dragon spacecraft Saturday, April 20, SpaceX said an "anomaly" happened after people reported seeing thick plumes of orange smoke at Cape Canaveral. No one was hurt. At the time, SpaceX did not specify what went wrong.
Officials say the incident happened after the smaller Draco escape thrusters were fired.
"And just prior to when we wanted to fire the Super Draco, there was an anomaly, and the vehicle was destroyed," said Hans Koenigsmann, Space X Vice President of Flight and Rebuild Reliability.
CREW CAPSULE DESTROYED: during pre-launch newser for @NASA #CRS17 , @SpaceX Hans Koenigsmann confirms issue during SuperDraco engine system activation, caused explosion that destroyed Crew Dragon during April 20 test on Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral AFS. @MyNews13 @bn9 pic.twitter.com/rluD8dDg9t— Greg Pallone (@gpallone13) May 2, 2019
Koenigsmann made it clear he doesn't believe the issue had anything to do with the engines themselves.
"We will take the lessons learned from this, and I'm convinced this will help us ensure that the Crew Dragon is one of the safest human spaceflight vehicles ever built," Koenigsmann said.
The company's Crew Dragon spacecraft is supposed to eventually transport astronauts to the ISS, with a manned demo mission planned for July. Now, that timetable could be in jeopardy if the Crew Dragon capsule they were to fly in was damaged.
Falcon 9 rocket launch
Meanwhile, Dragon capsules are being used to ferry cargo to the ISS, which is scheduled to happen early Friday morning during a launch from the east coast of Florida.
A power supply problem that had plagued the ISS for the past few days and had already delayed the launch once has been resolved, NASA said Thursday.
"About 5 a.m. Florida time, I got the thumbs up that things were in good shape," says Kenny Todd, NASA Manager Space Station Operations.
Controllers in Houston used the space station's robotic arm to replace a part that powers two of eight power channels on the station.
"This morning, Robotics Ground Controllers in Mission Control Houston successfully completed an operation to remove a failed Main Bus Switching Unit-3 and replace it with a spare. The MBSU in question had failed on April 29 and reduced the station’s power supply by about 25 percent," NASA said in a news release.
NASA wanted the space station to be at full power to support the Dragon capsule's capture and berthing. The agency said the six crew members aboard the space station are safe.
SpaceX is scheduled to launch the Dragon capsule on a Falcon 9 rocket at 3:11 a.m. Friday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The capsule is carrying 5,500 pounds of supplies and science experiments for the ISS.
Some 250 research investigations are included in the mission.
SpaceX will attempt to land the first-stage booster on its drone ship, 17 miles off the coast of Cape Canaveral.
The 45th Weather Squadron's forecast shows rain and clouds -- due to that tropical system moving towards Florida from the Bahamas -- could dampen Friday's launch attempt.
As of Thursday afternoon, the squadron was predicting a 40 percent chance of favorable weather conditions at the time of liftoff.