Dragon capsule suffers problem during engine test

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.

Bad news: A SpaceX man-rated Dragon capsule suffered an “anomaly” during an engine test today.

“Earlier today, SpaceX conducted a series of engine tests on a Crew Dragon test vehicle on our test stand at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral, Florida,” a company spokesperson told Space.com in a statement. “The initial tests completed successfully but the final test resulted in an anomaly on the test stand.”

At the moment we do not have much information. We do not know if this capsule was the one that flew in March and was going to be used in the launch abort test prior to the manned mission, or whether it was another capsule planned for the manned mission itself.

Nor do we know what the problem was, or if it was a SuperDraco thruster that failed.

Regardless, this is going to cause a significant delay in SpaceX’s flight schedule. While they might be able to complete an investigation and resume flying within months, NASA will insist on a NASA-type investigation, drawn out for far longer, possibly years.


Every July, to celebrate the anniversary of the start of Behind the Black in 2010, I hold a month-long fund-raising campaign to make it possible for me to continue my work here for another year.

This year's fund-raising drive however is more significant in that it is also the 10th anniversary of this website's founding. It is hard to believe, but I have been doing this for a full decade, during which I have written more than 22,000 posts, of which more than 1,000 were essays and almost 2,600 were evening pauses.

This year's fund drive is also more important because of the growing intolerance of free speech and dissent in American culture. Increasingly people who don't like what they read are blatantly acting to blackball sites like mine. I have tried to insulate myself from this tyrannical effort by not depending on Google advertising or cross-posts Facebook or Twitter. Though this prevents them from having a hold on me, it also acts to limit my exposure.

Therefore, I hope you will please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652


  • commodude

    I detected a certain amount of schadenfreude in the radio news story about this this afternoon. The local news station had been absolutely silent on SpaceX prior to this, now it’s a headline on the 5PM newscast.

  • Col Beausabre

    According to AP’s aerospace correspondent, the “anomaly” resulted in the loss of the spacecraft. “SpaceX has suffered a serious setback in its effort to launch NASA astronauts into orbit this year, with the fiery loss of its first crew capsule during testing.”

    Gotta come down HARD on SpaceX for feeding us Corporate-speak gobbliegook with “anomaly”. Be honest for Pete’s sake and call it a “problem” or an “accident”.

  • The smoke cloud visible in photos seems to stretch the definition of ‘anomaly’.

  • Robin

    The capsule is gone. It was shattered to pieces by a massive explosion of its hypergolic propellants. Why is this video no shown here?


  • Col Beausabre

    Turns out the “anomaly” was an huge explosion followed by an intense fire
    I’m calling SpaceX out on this one, the only reason this doesn’t rate as a “disaster ” is because no one got hurt. “Anomaly”, my tail end !

  • wayne

    Col Beausabre
    good stuff.

    “V-2 Rocket Test Anomalies”

  • Col Beausabre:

    Checked the link. That appears to be a rapid unplanned disassembly. Not an ‘anomaly’.

  • Robin

    Here is a detailed discussion of potential causes, which may have originated spacecraft’s explosion (or even detonation).


  • Commodude

    How about ” an event outside nominal test parameters?”(If you’re going bureaucrat, go all the way)

  • Robin: You might have changed your email address and your ip address, but I know who you are, someone I previously banned from Behind the Black. I will be watching what you write very carefully.

  • wayne

    Animation of 2015 Process anomaly at ExxonMobil Refinery in Torrance, CA

  • Col Beausabre

    Watch 3,000 tons of rocket fuel go up
    11 Minutes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1kTAX9uWcw
    47 minutes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUcgYmgTkEg

  • Edward

    Blair Ivey wrote, similar to other comments: “The smoke cloud visible in photos seems to stretch the definition of ‘anomaly’.

    Actually, it is a perfect fit for the word.

    Just because some people would prefer to hear “Oh, the humanity!” does not mean that it is the correct phrase to use.

    It is best for us to not hear a bunch of bogus speculation in the first seventy-two hours after something has happened. We usually hear the wrong thing, fixate on erroneous reports, and draw incorrect conclusions that we believe for the rest of our lives. Robert has mentioned this before when the country was speculating on a multitude of bogus reports after a terrorist attack, which does not seem to be terrorism after all:

    After the mass shooting in Las Vegas last night, it’s time to invoke the 72-hour rule for shootings and terrorist attacks.

    Engineers tend to keep emotion out of it so that we can calmly and rationally investigate the problem and find a correct solution rather than a politically correct solution. So, the catastrophic destruction of the Challenger orbiter was a major anomaly, not an “Oh, the humanity!” Those who drive political discussion and bogus solutions use the emotional phrases and words, generating feel-good solutions, such as disarming the public to make us feel safe from our law-abiding neighbors while the bad guys are shooting us.

    As for what went wrong: I, too, would like to know right now, but patience will pay off by allowing an actual investigation to review designs, procedures, actions taken, hardware history, and other factors that could have contributed. A root cause and contributing factors will be determined, and most likely several changes will be made to assure that whatever happened does not happen again. There will likely be several other fixes to lesser problems, too.

    Whatever happened, it does not seem to have been on SpaceX’s, NASA’s, or the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel’s radar.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpSC1Ztf1UQ (5 minutes)
    Let’s not jump to conclusions just yet.

  • wayne

    Col Beausabre-
    good stuff.

    ya’ raise a number of cogent points.

    ..this is good–

    “Toxic Propellant Hazards”
    NASA circa 1966
    [National Archive collection]
    “This NASA safety film demonstrates the dangers of rocket fuels, including hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide, and instructs workers in their safe handling….”

  • Anthony

    Edward, you beat me to it. Essentially, it’s industry standard to call any deviation from what is planned an anomaly regardless of the magnitude of the deviation. Look up “Delta II explosion” on YouTube and you will hear the woman speaking use the same term to describe a significantly larger RUD. Likewise, when a mission is executed perfectly it’s “nominal,” not “perfect.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *