A rendering of the Crew Dragon approaching a docking port on the International Space Station. Courtesy SpaceX

Hours before the company is scheduled to launch a supply mission to the International Space Station, a SpaceX official confirmed Thursday its capsule designed to carry astronauts into space was destroyed during an April 20 test.

In March, the Crew Dragon capsule successfully completed an unmanned test mission to the space station, heralding a major advancement in the United States’ effort to resume astronaut launches, something the nation hasn’t done since the space shuttle program was retired in 2011.

But an April 20 engine test at Cape Canaveral in Florida went awry, sending a plume of thick smoke into the sky above the spaceport. Officials have deemed the mishap an “anomaly,” and it’s still unclear exactly what went wrong.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, SpaceX Vice President Hans Koenigsmann confirmed the Crew Dragon capsule was destroyed in the blast, which occurred as the company was firing the capsule’s SuperDraco thrusters as part of a flight-abort test.

“While it is too early to confirm any cause … the initial data indicates that the anomaly occurred during the activation of the SuperDraco system,” Koenigsmann said.

No injuries were reported.

NASA officials said they were working closely with Los Angeles-based SpaceX to determine what caused the problem. SpaceX had been planning to launch astronauts into space aboard the capsule this summer, possibly in July, but that mission is now on hold.

SpaceX and Boeing have both contracted with NASA to conduct manned flights.

Meanwhile, SpaceX is scheduled to launch a resupply mission to the International Space Station early Friday morning. The launch, which had originally been set for Wednesday, is tentatively set for 12:11 a.m. California time from Cape Canaveral. It will be SpaceX’s 17th resupply mission to the space station.

— City News Service

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