Get the Mach newsletter.
By Denise Chow
Less than two weeks after SpaceX triumphantly launched its huge Falcon Heavy rocket on its first commercial flight, the company suffered a setback when its Crew Dragon capsule was hit by an "anomaly" during tests that could force the postponement of the first flight manned from the capsule to The International Space Station.
No injuries were reported in the incident, which occurred during an unmanned motor test at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The photos taken by eyewitnesses showed plumes of smoke coming from the site.
"Earlier today, SpaceX conducted a series of engine tests on a Crew Dragon test vehicle on our test bench at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral, Florida," SpaceX officials said in a statement to Florida Today on Saturday. a newspaper based in central Florida. "The initial tests were completed successfully, but the final test resulted in an anomaly on the test bench."
The company did not provide details about the anomaly, but said it had started an investigation. In a statement issued on Saturday, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said the agency was working with SpaceX to evaluate the incident. "That's why we tried," he said. "We will learn, we will make the necessary adjustments and we will continue with our Commercial Crew Program".
SpaceX launched the Crew Dragon capsule on its first unmanned test flight to the space station on March 2. The ship spent almost a week connected to the outpost in orbit before returning to Earth and splashing in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Florida.
The company is expected to make one more unmanned flight of the capsule to test the ship's emergency abortion system. After that, NASA could authorize the first Crew Dragon flight to the space station with two astronauts on board. Neither SpaceX nor NASA have announced the dates of these upcoming flights nor have they said how they could be affected by the recent accident.
The Crew Dragon is one of the two new commercially manufactured capsules designed to transport astronauts from and to the space station, and end NASA's long dependence on Russian spacecraft. The Boeing CST-100 Starliner capsule, which has been plagued by delays, is expected to make its first unmanned test flight in August.
Do you want more stories about space?
REGISTER FOR THE MACH BULLETIN AND FOLLOW NBC NEWS MACH ON TWITTER, FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM.
Denise Chow is a reporter and editor of NBC News MACH.