By CCN.com: Tesla billionaire Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX suffered another setback when one of its Crew Dragon capsules encountered a mysterious “anomaly” during engine tests being carried out at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on April 20.
The SpaceX facility in Florida was covered in dense orange smoke, though the so-called anomaly was brought under control without any injuries, Reuters reports.
SpaceX said in a statement:
“The initial tests completed successfully but the final test resulted in an anomaly on the test stand.”
Though it isn’t clear as to what caused the anomaly, an educated guess would suggest that something went wrong with the engine of the Crew Dragon spacecraft that’s being prepped to take NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and back.
Of course, speculation about a potential engine fire remains just that, as both SpaceX and NASA have remained mum on the nature of the “anomaly.” Perhaps that’s because of the massive investment the space agency has made into the project.
NASA doled out a princely sum of $6.8 billion to Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Boeing five years ago. Musk received $2.6 billion of that grant. The companies are tasked with building capsules and rockets that will send astronauts into space from American soil.
That’s why any anomaly at SpaceX will be a big loss of face for NASA as astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are set to take the first manned flight in July this year. Any more hiccups could blow up Elon Musk’s SpaceX ambitions into smoke as he is already a couple of years late from the 2017 deadline when the Crew Dragon was originally supposed to take flight.
NASA had to call out Musk and SpaceX earlier this year about safety concerns in its annual report. Reuters reported in February:
“For SpaceX, the report mentioned the redesign of a SpaceX rocket canister following a 2016 explosion and its “’oad and go’ process of fueling the rocket with the crew already inside the capsule.”
The annual report added that SpaceX’s launch schedule faces “serious challenges.”
Nothing seems to be going in favor of the embattled Elon Musk. His electric car company Tesla faces an avalanche of problems from production to logistics, even as the company touts alleged advances in self-driving technology.
SpaceX isn’t in tip-top shape either, as Musk laid off 10% of its workforce in January. Around 600 employees lost their jobs as SpaceX decided to become a leaner company in a bid to lower costs and prepare for the challenges ahead.
The silver lining is that SpaceX has already beaten Boeing by successfully sending an unmanned capsule to the ISS in March this year that managed to return safely. But it is an entirely different ballgame when astronauts climb onboard.
Every facet of the spacecraft needs to be checked over and over again until the results are consistent. There should be no anomalies when human lives are at stake.