For the uninitiated, in April, SpaceX's Crew Dragon exploded, an incident that both had the general public and the minds at the Elon Musk-founded company scratching their heads.
The Crew Dragon made history in March when it flew itself from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and docked on the International Space Station.
The first @Commercial_Crew mission arrived at the space station today when the @SpaceX #CrewDragon completed soft capture on the Harmony module at 5:51am ET. #LaunchAmerica https://t.co/Bgcgac0O50 pic.twitter.com/KfNFpHxpGx— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) March 3, 2019
When the rocket exploded SpaceX’s Vice President of Mission Assurance Hans Koenigsmann seemed to keep things under wraps, not even alluding to what had happened.
The massive explosion at SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral testing grounds was simply written off as an anomaly at first.
SpaceX's Koenigsmann: Crew Dragon powered up as expected. Smaller Draco thrusters fired OK. Just before to firing SuperDraco, there was anomaly and the vehicle was destroyed.— Emre Kelly (@EmreKelly) May 2, 2019
It wasn't until a little later that SpaceX admitted that the Crew Dragon spacecraft was destroyed in a test of its propulsion system. At the moment, NASA and SpaceX are still investigating the event.
The Investigation Continues
More than a month later, officials at both institutions are investigating what caused this anomaly and the potential implications this may have on future test flights.
During the explosion, it has been revealed that SpaceX was in the process of testing both the Draco thrusters and larger SuperDraco abort thrusters in preparation for an in-flight abort test of the capsule. These tests were a precursor for a flight that was supposed to happen later this month.
NASA Advisory Council’s human exploration and operations committee, Kathy Lueders, manager of commercial crew program at NASA has offered up more insight into what could have happened, and even praised the SpaceX team for the great work that they did in beautifully handling this mishap.
Due to the capsule's destruction, the SpaceX team will be forced to use the Crew Dragon spacecraft originally intended for the Demo-2 crewed flight test for the in-flight abort test.
Though there is still not much known about what entirely happened, the overall mood is optimistic. As stated by Lueders, "The said accident was a gift...We’re learning a lot. Sometimes you learn more from a failure like this."
Whatever they learn from the investigation, they hope to apply it to the next generation of space vehicle.