SpaceX Starship prototype nosecone topples in high Texas winds

Pablo Tucker
January 26, 2019

Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, said that the top section of his company's shiny new prototype of a giant rocket was blown over by powerful gusts of wind overnight.

Part of SpaceX's Starship prototype toppled over due to recent strong winds in Texas, causing damage that will take weeks to fix.

According to Federal Communications Commission documents, the current prototype will fly no higher than 16,400 feet during test flights.


Space X CEO Elon Musk tweeted that strong coastal winds late Tuesday night "broke the mooring blocks" and blew over the "fairing" of the Starship Hopper. Musk has said the test version is for low altitude "hop" flights (known as VTOL, or Vertical Take Off and Landing), which will not reach orbit.

As Popular Mechanics noted, the hypothetical finished craft will "sport a much sturdier skin needed to withstand the journey out of Earth's atmosphere"-though Musk has taken the unusual step of building it out of a double-walled stainless steel alloy shell he told the magazine will not buckle, will withstand extreme temperatures, and use water or fuel as the "first-ever regenerative heat shield".

CEO Elon Musk tweeted about damage to the rocket, noting it would take a "few weeks to fix".


The tweet below shows what the Starship prototype looked like after the heavy, sustained winds knocked over the nosecone. Musk and Gwynne Shotwell, the president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, call the ship the "test hopper" because it's not created to launch to Mars or even into orbit around Earth. Musk announced early this year that the hopper should start permforing tests in four to eight weeks, a deadline which will obviously be moved given the recent damage. Starship is being built out of very stainless steel, rather than carbon fiber.

An orbital prototype is expected in June.

It's "very easy to work with steel", Musk said.


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