Falcon 9 carrying astronauts explodes minutes before launch

SpaceX was planning to land the Falcon 9 rocket carrying four astronauts back on Earth as it entered a (hopefully soft) Earth landing zone in Florida. Yet the Dragon capsule in which they were traveling didn’t look like it would make it. As Space.com’s Brian Fung explained, “SpaceX’s Dragon capsule deployed its heat shield before it separated from the rocket to head toward its intended landing zone in the Atlantic Ocean. But the capsule was drifting in orbit. Space.com, citing sources familiar with the situation, reported that Dragon’s floating obstacle was re-entry.”

SpaceX is giving its Dragon capsule the Mars treatment for a full test in low Earth orbit before going to Mars. The two reusability tests have been billed as the last requirements for their participation in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to send U.S. astronauts on the ISS. The mission will mark the first time anyone from the U.S. has launched a crew to the ISS for 18 months. A second test will take place next year, during which SpaceX plans to send a Falcon 9 back to the ISS. The team consists of astronauts Eric Boe, Robert Behnken, Doug Hurley and Steve Swanson.

Read the full story at NBC News.

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