Starship MK1 Prototype. Image via The Verge
With all eyes set on Crew Dragon’s maiden manned flight to the International Space Station (ISS), elsewhere, SpaceX is continuing work on Starship in tandem.
But things quickly went south after the static fire test for the Raptor engine of the Starship SN4 prototype on Friday in Boca Chica, Texas. This was the fifth static fire test of this engine on this prototype vehicle. However, this time, after successfully completing its static fire test, the SN4 prototype exploded on the test stand. The video embedded below shows a short clip of the explosion along with its aftermath.
The explosion occurred around 1:49 PM local time, under the two-minute mark after the static fire test. Eric Berger, the Senior Space Editor at Ars Technica tweeted that the cause of the explosion was ‘some type of uncontrolled leak’. There appears to be significant damage to the test site as well.
Image via SPadre (Twitter)
While this is a setback to SpaceX and the Starship initiative, the company is already working on assembling its SN5 prototype on a launch stand nearby in Boca Chica. Testing should resume shortly once all prerequisites are set in place. Considering Elon Musk’s bold plans for the program, the Starship program has picked up pace in recent months. The firm also published a short guide for the rocket back in April detailing its various configurations.
As stated before, in Florida, the Crew Dragon is preparing for its historic flight to the ISS with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board. If the weather is benign, the spacecraft is slated to launch atop the Falcon 9 rocket at 03:22 PM EDT on Saturday. This is the second launch window that SpaceX has at its disposal after the Wednesday launch had to be scrubbed due to unfavorable conditions. Should Saturday’s launch also run into similar issues, a third launch window is available on Sunday. You may check out our coverage of the Crew Dragon here.