SpaceX Crew Dragon suffers anomaly at Cape Canaveral

United States aerospace manufacturer SpaceX said on Sunday that an "anomaly" had occurred during static fire tests for the abort engines of its Crew Dragon spacecraft.

No one was injured, and it was not clear what caused the accident or how serious it was.

SpaceX previously conducted a pad abort test of the Crew Dragon in 2015, and an uncrewed mission to the space station was completed successfully last month.

Space News reported that on Saturday afternoon eyewitnesses had seen a dark cloud from somewhere near the US Air Force facility in Cape Canaveral.

SpaceX did not specify which Crew Dragon was on the test stand during the engine test, or if it survived the anomaly at Landing Zone 1.

The failure comes at a critical time for the California-based company founded by Elon Musk. NASA has picked SpaceX's Crew Dragon to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station, with the first crewed flight expected later this year.

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That abort test will require a Crew Dragon to fire its SuperDraco engines to separate from a Falcon 9 rocket in mid-flight and then parachute back to Earth. Reports from local media outlets showed a large reddish cloud of smoke that, according to Florida Today, "could be seen for miles".

The company was scheduled to perform a test of the vehicle with crew aboard as early as July, as well as an in-flight abort test prior to the crewed test. "Our teams are investigating and working closely with our NASA partners".

"NASA has been notified about the results of the SpaceX Static Fire Test and the anomaly that occurred during the final test", its administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a tweet "We will learn, make the necessary adjustments and safely move forward with our Commercial Crew Program", he added.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon successfully flew without a crew to the International Space Station in March.

It was unknown exactly which version of the Crew Dragon spacecraft was involved in the anomaly, but the company conducts routine testing on its engines.

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