It hasn’t been a good month so far for SpaceX as Elon Musk’s company once more failed another systems test after the disastrous explosion that happened in Cape Canaveral on April 20.
According to Inverse, the SpaceX Crew Dragon, a capsule which was built to bring U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station, failed a parachute test held at Delamar Dry Lake in Nevada. SpaceX was trying to figure out if the capsule would survive if all four parachutes failed to launch in time. During testing, three of the parachutes failed to set off, causing considerable damage to the Crew Dragon during impact.
The parachute test was revealed by NASA’s associate administrator of human exploration, Bill Gerstenmaier, during a hearing led by the U.S. House of Representatives’ science, space and technology committee.
The test result was given in answer to a question from Mo Brooks, a Republican representative from Alabama. Brooks has been known to be one of the top critics of “commercial” space agencies such as SpaceX.
The failure seriously undermined the possibility of SpaceX successfully bringing astronauts to the ISS via the Crew Dragon. However, NASA explained that there is a silver lining to all the failed tests since it can provide the much-needed data that scientists will need to make the necessary changes to the capsule and ensure its passengers’ safety.
“Their teams are fully engaged, we are understanding this. This is a gift to us. We have gotten data that is unique, that will help us design and understand if this is something that needs to be fixed, or if this is something that was just a nuance of the test and the configuration,” Gerstenmaier said.
After a successful demo that brought the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the ISS without assistance, Musk’s space agency has been working hard on the next phase of their mission: human transport.
During a crucial test, however, the Crew Dragon blew up while SpaceX was firing up engines embedded within the spacecraft. The capsule is equipped with eight small thrusters known as SuperDraco engines, which are intended to play an important role in case of glitches during space flights.
The thrusters were intended to bring the Crew Dragon away from danger should the SpaceX rocket (either the Falcon 9 or the Starship) encounters a fatal malfunction. However, the engines ignited while conducting a test of the engines at the company’s landing pad at Cape Canaveral.
The exterior of SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California as seen on July 22, 2018.Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images