SpaceX’s latest Starship prototype exploded just during a ground test in south Texas on Friday (May 29,2020), erupting in a dramatic fireball. The explosion comes as the company is counting down to another major launch on a different rocket. However, there was no immediate indication of injuries.
The Starship SN4 prototype exploded at about 1:49 pm CDT (2:49 p.m. EDT/1849 GMT) according to a video provided by the South Padre Island tourism site SPadre.com. The explosion occurred about a minute after a short test of its Raptor rocket engine, but it was unclear what caused the conflagration.
As per the Guardian reports, the testing explosion was unrelated to SpaceX’s upcoming launch of two Nasa astronauts from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center using a different rocket system, the Falcon 9 with the Crew Dragon capsule fixed on top.
The Starship SN4 vehicle is the latest in a series of stainless steel prototypes SpaceX has built to test technologies required for a truly massive space launch system. It is a 165-foot-tall Starship rocket and its Super Heavy mega booster. That vehicle is the one SpaceX hopes will carry up to 100 people at a time to space and, eventually, on to Mars said the space.com.
SpaceX was among the three companies awarded a combined $1bn by Nasa last month to develop rocket systems capable of ferrying cargo and humans to the moon. SpaceX proposed Starship for the award.
The FAA granted the space company a license Thursday to begin Starship’s first suborbital flight tests, though it was unclear when those tests would occur.