The amount of pressure that SpaceX is under is enough to make anyone blow their top. This is exactly what happened to a Starship
prototype. An upper stage for SpaceX’s Starship MK-1 prototype erupted during a pressurization test.
The pressurization test occurred on Wednesday in Boca Chica, Texas. The upper portion of the rocket blew its top 500 feet into the air, while smoke from a ruptured tank of cryogenic propellants dissipated. According to a statement from SpaceX
, “The purpose of [the] test was to pressurize systems to the max, so the outcome was not completely unexpected.” Footage of the explosion was caught on a webcam situated on South Padre Island. Thankfully no injuries have been reported and SpaceX does not consider this incident to be a major setback.
SpaceX had originally planned to start uncrewed test flights in the next few weeks. They had hoped to fly the MK-1 prototype to 65,000 feet (20,000 kilometers) and land it shortly afterwards. SpaceX has decided instead to focus on their MK-3 prototype, but they doubt it will be ready to fly in December. The MK-3 will reportedly be an upgrade. Elon Musk
remarked on Twitter that the MK-1 “had some value as a manufacturing pathfinder, but flight design is quite different.”
The SpaceX Starship is both a spacecraft and the second stage of a reusable launch vehicle. Starship is meant to be fully reusable and take passengers and cargo to moons, planets, satellites, and space stations. The MK-1 prototype was being built in Texas, while the MK-2 prototype is currently being built in Florida. SpaceX will now begin to work on the MK-3 prototype at their Texas site.
The two halves of the MK-1 prototype were joined together this past September. SpaceX hosted a livestream
where Elon Musk discussed his plans and hopes for future space travel. Musk believes that SpaceX will be able to land uncrewed spacecraft on the moon within two years, and crewed missions within a few years after that. He hopes that human beings will be able to colonize the moon and create stations that resemble the ones currently in Antarctica. It is unclear if the latest explosion will delay Musk’s plans for flights to the moon.