SpaceX Crew Dragon Anomaly Occurred During Super Drago Static Fire

NASA has released the following statement from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine:

The NASA and SpaceX teams are assessing the anomaly that occurred today during a part of the Dragon Super Drago Static Fire Test at SpaceX Landing Zone 1 in Florida. This is why we test. We will learn, make the necessary adjustments, and safely move forward with our Commercial Crew Program.

SpaceX has been scheduled to conduct an in-flight abort test using the Super Drago engines in June. That test would use the same Crew Dragon spacecraft that successfully flew to the International Space Station last month.

A flight test to the space station with crew would follow in July. Both those flights could be delayed depending upon the outcome of the investigation into today’s anomaly.

UPDATE NO. 1, 5:53 pm PDT: Source at the Cape says the Crew Dragon that flew to ISS last month was destroyed in an explosion. In-flight abort and flight test to ISS scheduled for June and July, respectively, have been postponed indefinitely.

UDPATE NO. 2, 6:08 pm PDT: Some uncertainty about which spacecraft was involved. Will update.

UPDATE NO. 3, 8:35 am PDT: Yeah, looks like the initial report was accurate. Appears to be the DM-1 spacecraft that flew to station.

  • Bulldog

    Very unfortunate. Hopefully the cause will be discovered quickly and remediated shortly thereafter. Certainly hoping it won’t postpone the in-flight abort test too long.

  • therealdmt

    Yep, there goes 2019.


  • duheagle

    Maybe. Maybe not. Let’s see what the autopsy shows.

  • Jeff Smith

    Ouch. Major bummer folks.

  • newpapyrus

    Too bad Congress wasn’t willing to fund the development of a third crew module (the Dream Chaser), so that NASA could have more options that just the the CST-100 and the Dragon in case of accidents.


  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I’m not taunting you with this, only referencing past discussions. It’s always something. Something always fails and causes delays in new systems. It’s just part of doing this business. I see you’re holding out hope, but this is going to cause a delay, rework, and probably a reflight of the test we just had.

  • savuporo

    This video isn’t looking great

    A complete disintegration. I don’t think any astronaut wants to be on this thing any time soon

  • Paul_Scutts

    Yes, Jeff, this is potentially a huge set-back for Dragon II. Those Super Draco engines need to be bullet proof. SpaceX needs potentially to build a Dragon II test article, drop from a chopper into the ocean, fish out, fire and re-fire the Draco’s without any hiccups, then, do it all again and again. Major bummer, indeed. Regards, Paul.

  • Saturn1300

    They said they were having trouble with the temp of the engines. Must have got too high. They had better get Dragon-1 converted like they said they were going to do in ’12. Not doing what you say you are going to do sometimes comes back and bites you.

  • Bulldog

    After watching that all I can say is thank God it happened on the ground. That is what testing is for. No doubt the loss of the hardware is a major setback but the SpaceX team is a resilient crew. Let’s see what the Accident Investigation Board finds and hope it is something straight forward rather than an issue with the base system architecture.

  • 76 er

    Ironic that this was a test of the escape system.

  • ThomasLMatula

    If it was the same capsule that flew DM-1 it is likely proof that despite NASA beliefs, space capsules and sea water don’t mix well.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Or just decide to skip reusing the Dragon2 capsules after they have been soaked in the ocean. It’s not like NASA is going to need a lot of them, not at the flight rate needed to support the ISS. And if I recall, NASA was already requiring them to provide a new capsule for each flight.

  • Lee

    Regardless, the root cause will have to be fully understood. Just saying “it’s because it was soaked in the ocean” is meaningless. This was not a minor failure or a little glitch. Even if it was because of being in the ocean, that’s a huge problem. SpaceX has royally screwed the pooch on this one.

  • Flatley

    Arguably worse that it was ever in the ocean, because you’ll never recreate that vehicle’s precise state ever again. What if you can’t find the problem on a brand new set of hardware? “Screwed the pooch” is right.

  • Q Tig

    What are you even talking about? Its like you mix info from one place and apply it somewhere else without any logic. Sorry if you are going senile. Wait — is your name Gaetano?

  • Q Tig

    LoL. You mean the Dreamchaser that has received money all these years and yet still hasnt flown? That one?

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    The temperature issue was for the little Draco thrusters and their lines freezing on orbit (not getting too hot). In any case this test was of Super Draco and the problem originated upstream of the thruster regardless. As usual you are making a hot mess of the analysis.

  • duheagle

    Could be. I expect we’ll know in fairly short order. SpaceX isn’t inclined to let the grass grow in situations like this – and they’ve had a few.

  • duheagle

    Agreed that we’re looking at inevitable delay here. It’s just a question of how much and we have no basis upon which to make any guesses here except SpaceX’s past record of promptly running down anomalies and fixing them. That suggests we might not be looking at an extended soap opera here.

    If Matula is right and the problem is related to seawater exposure, that could require anything from a trivial to a time-consuming fix. If SuperDracos can’t take seawater up their bells, for instance, the simplest fix might be water-tight, re-entry-capable blow-off panels over the bells of the SuperDracos.

    Or revisiting the whole issue of powered landings on terra firma.

  • duheagle

    I believe Elon made some off-the-cuff remark to the effect that a human could have safely ridden the first Dragon with just a couch and an aqualung. That hardly counts as a commitment to making Dragon 1 human-rated.

  • windbourne

    DC went several years with zero funding, except what SNC did.

  • windbourne

    have to wonder.

  • Saturn1300

    Preliminary. I think my credentials are good. I was the 1st to explain what happened to Amos through frame by frame. First. Next day SpaceX confirmed. So far this looks like a hypergolic leak explosion. I never liked using thrusters for abort. I like the proven SRM. Using these is experimental and a 1st. Looks like a bust. NASA lets people try stuff like this. But if it fails. I would not be surprised if they did not go back to a tower. BO’s NASA pusher abort worked with SRM. So they might use that. Certainly this system could be used for an emergency land landing. But like Soyuz a SRM could be used. This could run out of fuel though, just like SRM if not used correctly. Perhaps they could change to Green fuel. At 75% water it is hard to start, but also should be hard to explode. Not hypergolic. 2 fuels in separate tanks only coming together in combustion chamber would be safer. It could fire when combined or ignited with an igniter.
    The code says be polite. So watch it or Doug will get you.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, it will make it difficult to determine what happened. But more worrisome is the consequences of the failure. NASA will likely not trust having hyperbolic fuels that near the capsule, especially since there is a safer alternative, namely the traditional solid fuel tractor system similar to the one on Apollo and Orion. It will be interesting to watch how this plays out for Commercial Crew and see where the program goes from here.

  • Saturn1300

    I guess I remember wrong. I I sure thought Bridenstine said too hot. Looks like a hypergolic explosion. No need to be insulting. I could return the insult if you like.

  • Saturn1300

    No joke.