SpaceX, poised to launch NASA astronauts on their new Crew Dragon spacecraft this year, has suffered a catastrophic loss of the vehicle during a test at Cape Canaveral.
On this edition of the Supercluster Podcast, spaceflight reporters Robin Seemangal (Supercluster) and Loren Grush (The Verge) unpack SpaceX's anomaly and what may come next.
The incident occurred on Saturday April 20th while SpaceX conducted firings of their SuperDraco engines on the Crew Dragon, which could be used to propel astronauts away from danger during a launch failure.
That day, SpaceX conducted 8 successful tests of the SuperDraco orbital maneuvering thrusters but during the first SuperDraco abort engine test, an explosion occurred destroying the spacecraft and its test stand on Landing Zone 1.
The Crew Dragon lost was used in March to fly a successful round trip demonstration mission to the ISS with a suited-up mannequin named "Ripley" and an improvised zero-g indicator, the "Little Earth" Celestial Buddy plush.
NASA says they have full confidence in SpaceX and is assisting the launch provider as they attempt to determine what went wrong. Both the federal space agency and its contractor were nearing the home stretch in the race to return human spaceflight to American soil. This mishap, whatever the cause, almost certainly means there will be further delay.