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SpaceX: Leaky valve caused crew capsule to explode in test

The SpaceX crew Dragon capsule was undergoing a ground test when it exploded and was destroyed.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX says a leaky valve caused its crew capsule to explode during a test back in April.

The company announced the preliminary results of its accident investigation Monday.

SpaceX's crew Dragon capsule had just returned from a successful test flight to the International Space Station and was undergoing a ground test at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The abort-system thrusters were milliseconds away from firing, when the spacecraft exploded and was destroyed.

Hans Koenigsmann, a SpaceX vice president, says a check valve allowed liquid oxidizer to leak into the high-pressure abort system. The titanium valve ignited, leading to the blast. He says the check valves will be replaced with more reliable disks.

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Koenigsmann says while it's not impossible, it's becoming "increasingly difficult" to fly astronauts on the capsule by year's end.

Credit: AP
In this Dec. 18, 2018 photo provided by SpaceX, SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket are positioned inside the company's hangar at Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, ahead of the Demo-1 unmanned flight test. (Space X via AP)