"Anomaly" might be an understatement. SpaceX was running engine tests on an unmanned space vehicle over the weekend at Cape Canaveral when something went seriously wrong. "The initial tests completed successfully but the final test resulted in an anomaly on the test stand," said the company in a brief statement. Based on photos taken by a Florida Today photographer at a nearby Florida beach, it appears that the Crew Dragon space vehicle exploded on the stand. The images show a huge plume of smoke visible for miles. Business Insider, meanwhile, reports that video is circulating on social media that appears to show the explosion itself. One big issue: A Crew Dragon vehicle is supposed to ferry astronauts to the space station later this year.
The incident could have a "major impact" on those plans, per CBS News. No astronaut has gone up in a US spacecraft in eight years, and SpaceX has been preparing for the milestone. Last month, it made a successful, unmanned demo flight to the International Space Station, and Florida Today notes that it was planning a series of engine tests to make sure the vehicle could safely abort in-flight during an emergency if necessary. That might have been what was happening Saturday when the "anomaly" occurred. "The test is one of the final tests for the Crew Dragon program before NASA signs off on putting astronauts on the spacecraft," per Spaceflight Now. (Read more SpaceX stories.)