SpaceX rocket prototype explodes during testing: A prototype of a SpaceX rocket called SN4 exploded today during tests in Texas. The explosion occurred minutes after a test of an engine at the base of the ship.
— Chris B – NSF (@NASASpaceflight) May 29, 2020
There has been a huge explosion of the SpaceX spacecraft for Mars, while conducting static ignition tests, necessary prior to launch.
The explosion has completely destroyed the SN4 prototype of the Starship, with which SpaceX hoped to make the first flights; The final version of the Starship is expected to be used to send astronauts to Mars and the Moon.
However, for that to happen SpaceX still has many obstacles to overcome; After all, the first prototypes of the Starship have barely managed to make small ‘leaps’ before landing again.
SpaceX rocket explodes
Today’s tests were conducted in Boca Chica, Texas, where SpaceX has tested all its rockets and space vehicles, and were focused on starting the Raptor rocket engine.
The SN4 ship was not going to take off, but the tests were to consist solely of static ignition; that is, the rockets would be fired but the ship would not move.
The explosion occurred just two minutes after the engine started; According to witnesses who were following the test live, some type of leak was seen at the bottom of the rocket, although for the moment SpaceX has not confirmed whether it is related to the failure.
The scare has been tremendous for everyone who followed the tests via streaming. A fireball has immediately engulfed the rocket, and when the flames died down, there was absolutely nothing left of the rocket. We still do not know what material damage has occurred, or even if there may be fatalities; although the latter is less likely, due to the security measures applied in this type of tests.
The rocket that will be key to reach Mars
The Raptor rocket engine will be used in the next Starship, instead of the Falcon 9 that it now uses for launches like the one in the Dragon capsule. As part of the tests, SpaceX built a test prototype called Starship SN4.
This week SpaceX received the approval of the US authorities to carry out the first flights with SN4, although they were only going to be suborbital and in no case would they reach orbit. In fact, the objective would be to carry out flights over short distances, which would allow obtaining more data.
These inaugural flights are now unlikely to take place, considering that SN4 appears to have been totally destroyed after the explosion, along with part of the platform.