The next fire tests of the SpaceX rocket prototype developed by SpaceX led to the explosion and destruction of a prototype called SN4. The time of the accident was broadcast live.
The incident occurred at the SpaceX training ground in Boca Chica, Texas. A few minutes after having successfully turned on and off the Raptor engine, a powerful explosion broke out, ending in the death of the prototype SN4. None of the SpaceX employees were injured in the accident. The causes of the explosion have not yet been reported, writes Space News.
Recall that the Starship spacecraft is developed by SpaceX as a second step for the future super-heavy rocket designed to deliver people and cargo to Mars. The test program of the SN4 prototype included tests of resistance to the high pressure of the fuel tanks (cryogenic pressure test), which the prototype passed at the end of April, ground fire tests, which SN4 also faced, and a takeoff at a height of 150 meters with a subsequent landing (this test is now will not take place). The next spaceship prototype (SN5), which will have longer flights, will receive three Raptor engines (and not one like the SN4) and pneumatic wheels, but it is possible that the SN4 explosion may make adjustments to the test program. SN5. It is also known that the company is already preparing prototypes of SN6 and SN7.
This accident was the fourth consecutive during the creation of full-size Starship prototypes. Earlier in cryogenic tests, accidents occurred with the Starship Mk1 prototype in November of last year, the SN1 prototype in late February, and the SN3 prototype in early April.
Last year, SpaceX developed a smaller spaceship prototype called Starhopper. The main program for this prototype was successfully completed in August after reaching a height of 150 meters and then landing. Now it acts as a stand for static testing of Raptor engines. Earlier, Elon Musk said the company plans to send the Starship prototype into orbit in 2020, but due to a series of accidents, this plan seems unrealistic.
Note that the explosion of the Starship prototype occurred shortly before the second attempt to launch the Crew Dragon spacecraft created by SpaceX with two astronauts on board, scheduled for May 30. The Texas incident should in no way affect this departure – only the weather can prevent it.