Space is difficult. We now have another reminder of this sad fact when a prototype of the next generation SpaceX rocket collapsed during testing this morning. This is the third such incident for the Starship program.
Video of the incidentcaught by NASASpaceflightshows how the upper part of the SN3 prototype vehicle loses its structural integrity and falls. The failed test took place around 3:00 a.m. today in the SpaceX test facility in Boca Chica, Texas, Reports SpaceNews.
The explosion happened, according to SpaceNews, when liquid nitrogen was poured into the rocket’s fuel tanks.
Once SpaceX is developed, it plans to use the Starship platform to bring passengers and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, and Mars. The rocket is unlike anything seen before and can carry more than 100 passengers. Starship will be a hybrid vehicle that serves both as the second tier of a reusable launch system (a SpaceX Super Heavy will provide the first tier) and as an independent spaceship.
This is the third failed test of a Starship prototype since the beginning of the project last year. The Mk1 prototype was launched on November 20, 2019 blew its tip during a cryogenic pressure test. The The explosion occurred when the rocket was powered by liquid oxygen. And on February 28, 2020, the base SN2 prototype exploded again during a cryogenic pressurization test.
In a tweet, Elon Musk said his team needed to look at the data to find out what happened, but “this could have been a test configuration error.” In an earlier one TweetThe SpaceX CEO said, “SN3 passed the ambient temperature pressure test last night” before the cryotests were run.
With this recent setback, Starship SN3’s static fire test is unlikely to be performed as planned. We also can’t expect a hop test soon, similar to this one carried out through the Starhopper prototype, which rose to a height of 150 meters before returning to the surface. It is also unclear whether SpaceX will achieve its goals targeted goal perform Starship orbital test flights later this year.