ORLANDO, Fla., April 20 (UPI) — A cloud of smoke was seen at Cape Canaveral in Florida on Saturday, which SpaceX and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine described as an “anomaly” that occurred during a test firing of the Crew Dragon capsule’s thrusters.
Bridenstine tweeted that the nation’s planned space missions with crews will move forward safely. The test firing was a preliminary event leading to a return to manned launches from the United States, which hasn’t happened since the last space shuttle lifted off in 2011.
The smoke was first reported by Florida Today, which had a photographer shooting a surf fest nearby in Cocoa Beach.
“This is why we test,” Bridenstine said in a tweet about the test firing.
Neither SpaceX nor NASA gave immediate updates on the status of the capsule, which was scheduled for its first flight with a crew this year.
SpaceX in a statement to UPI said, “Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting anomalies like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test. Our teams are investigating and working closely with our NASA partners.”
SpaceX calls Dragon “a free-flying spacecraft designed to deliver both cargo and people to orbiting destinations.”
Currently Dragon has been carrying cargo to space, but it was designed from the beginning to carry humans. The first demonstration flight under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program launched on March 2. The spacecraft successfully docked with the space station.
The Dragon spacecraft is capable of carrying up to seven passengers to and from Earth orbit, and beyond.
Toward the base of the capsule and contained within the nose cone are the Draco thrusters, which allow for orbital maneuvering. It was those thrusters that were being test-fired Saturday.
Jim Williams, spokesman for the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, said in a statement the anomaly “was contained and there were no injuries.”
NASASpaceflight.com reported that significant delays, if they occur, might threaten to throw NASA’s entire crew program into doubt because Boeing Starliner, a competing program, also is dealing with setbacks.
NASA has been relying on multimillion-dollar paid seats on Russia’s Soyuz rocket and capsule to get to the International Space Station for years.