“The purpose of today’s test was to pressurize (sic) systems to the max, so the outcome was not completely unexpected,” SpaceX said in a statement.

By Ian Horswill


Posted on November 22, 2019

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starship Mars rocket prototype partially exploded during its first significant pressurisation test of the rocket’s fuel tanks.

About halfway through the exercise of loading nitrogen into the prototype at the headquarters of SpaceX near Boca Chica Beach in South Texas, something went wrong and the top bulkhead of the rocket prototype broke off with pieces of aluminium also being ejected. Then huge plumes of frosty liquid nitrogen emanated from the interior of the rocket and a second cloud of vapour appeared out of the base of the vehicle at the same time, indicating that the entire internal tank may have ruptured.

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“The purpose of today’s test was to pressurize (sic) systems to the max, so the outcome was not completely unexpected,” SpaceX said in a statement.

The Starship Mark-1 prototype was unveiled by SpaceX founder Musk on 28 September. Speaking from beneath the 160-foot-tall prototype, Musk said SpaceX would continue that test program by launching the vehicle on a much higher “hop test” — up to 65,000 feet — before landing it upright back on the ground. He suggested a prototype could reach orbit within a year.

In its latest statement, SpaceX said its plans have since changed. Before Mark-1 erupted on Wednesday, the testing team had already decided not to try to fly the vehicle and instead was focused on building Mark-3.

That vehicle will be designed to reach orbit, which requires speeds topping 17,000 miles per hour.

NASASpaceflights stated it was important to note that Mk1 was not fully assembled during the failed test; its upper fairing was still being worked on at the main assembly site several miles away.

The section at the launch site was made up of the fuel tanks, aft fins, and Raptor engine section.

Elon Musk, who is lead designer at SpaceX, has embraced failures during previous SpaceX development efforts. He’s shared a reel of the company’s many failed attempts to land a rocket booster before the company succeeded in 2015.