Prototype of new SpaceX rocket Starship expolodes on Texas test pad

Pablo Tucker
May 31, 2020

The explosion occurred about a minute after a short test of its Raptor rocket engine, but it was unclear what caused the conflagration.

SpaceX has received authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly suborbital missions with its Starship prototype spacecraft, paving the way for test flights at its Boca Chica, Texas site.

A prototype of SpaceX rocket Starship explodes during ground tests, in Boca Chica, Texas U.S., May 29, 2020.

This prototype is distinct from the company's Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft, which this weekend is set to launch NASA astronauts from Florida. SpaceX typically takes plenty of safety precautions when running these tests, including ensuring the area is well clear of any personnel or other individuals.

This prototype was the latest vehicle meant to test out the design for SpaceX's future Starship, a reusable rocket in development with the aim of carrying up to 100 people and ferrying passengers and cargo to Earth's orbit, the Moon, and Mars.

The vehicle erupted soon after a trial known as a static fire test, which initially appeared successful, the New York Post reported.

The second rocket, dubbed Serial Number 1 (SN1), fell victim to another pressure test when it failed to contain its liquid nitrogen.

The company's first prototype, the Starship Mk1, was destroyed during a pressure test in November 2019.

The original Falcon 9 launch was scrubbed on Wednesday due to bad weather.

If the rocket launches it will mark the first time a private company will be sending astronauts up into space.

These efforts are unrelated to the company's Commercial Crew program, which includes a mission bound for the International Space Station. That rocket system has previously launched satellites and cargo to space successfully dozens of times, after years of development and testing.

This latest Starship prototype is the fourth that SpaceX has built.

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