May 23, 2019 | Updated: 06:04 PM EDT

SpaceX Crew Dragon’s Engine Test Ends in Smoke

Apr 21, 2019 07:31 PM EDT

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"On April 20, 2019, an anomaly occurred at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during the Dragon 2 static test fire," Wing Spokesman Jim Williams said in a statement. "The anomaly was contained and there were no injuries."

However, thick clouds of smoke bellowed over the SpaceX facility during the recent test run of a Crew Dragon spacecraft. If the issue is serious, it could possibly interfere with plans to have the capsule mission ready before next year. SpaceX said the craft was undergoing a "series of engine tests" at a facility in Cape Canaveral, when something went wrong. SpaceX said they will work with NASA to determine what caused the issue.

"Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting [issues] like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test," SpaceX said in a statement.

SpaceX and Boeing-who is to build Starliner, a similar spacecraft-were granted contracts for their individual design and construction of capsules, worth nearly 2.6 billion dollars and 4.2 billion dollars. Both capsules were supposed to start flying a couple years ago, but SpaceX and Boeing have been hindered with various delays. SpaceX, which was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, was first to the launch pad, sending Crew Dragon on an uncrewed test flight in March, docking the capsule with the ISS for a couple of days before making the journey back to Earth. That mission was deemed a success. Crew Dragon was scheduled to conduct a key test of its emergency abort system in June. And its first crewed mission, which will carry astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, is scheduled for July, though NASA recently said that target date is currently under review.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon is already late, and more interruptions could make things rather complex for NASA. The United States has not had the technological means to send humans in to space since the shuttle program ended way back in 2011. Meanwhile, NASA has been paying Russia about 80 million dollars per seat to send astronauts to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz capsules-a fact that isn't very popular with the US government.

Federal authorities warned NASA last year that more delays could leave US astronauts aground if the new capsules were not ready to fly sometime this year. NASA had only reserved Soyuz seats through December. But the space agency revealed in February that it would try to secure two more seats-one on a flight that would depart later this year and another on a mission scheduled for spring 2020-to assure "continuous safe operation and research activity on ISS."

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