SpaceX's new Starship prototype appeared to burst during a pressure test late Friday (Feb. 28), rupturing under the glare of flood lights and mist at the company's south Texas facility.
The Starship SN1 prototype, which SpaceX moved to a launchpad near its Boca Chica, Texas, assembly site earlier this week, blew apart during a liquid nitrogen pressure test according to a video captured by SPadre.com.
A separate video posted by NASASpaceflight.com member BocaChicaGal clearly shows the Starship SN1's midsection buckle during the test, then shoot upward before crashing back to the ground.
Space.com has reached out to SpaceX for details of Friday's test. This story will be updated as more information is available.
Starship SN1 is a test article for SpaceX's planned Starship and Super Heavy megarocket, a massive, reusable vertical launch-vertical landing system designed to fly deep-space missions to the moon, Mars and beyond.
SN1, which resembles a gleaming, stainless steel silo, is the first of a series of test articles SpaceX plans to build and test over time in order to fine-tune the systems needed to make a fully functional Starship. SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has hinted that many of these prototypes will be needed to perfect the Starship vehicle.
"We're now building flight design of Starship SN1, but each SN will have at least minor improvements, at least through SN20 or so of Starship V1.0," Musk wrote on Twitter on Dec. 27.
Musk unveiled the first full-size Starship prototype, called the Starship Mk1, in September 2019. That vehicle blew its top during cryogenic testing.
Musk first announced plans for SpaceX's Starship launch system in 2016. The company refined the design over subsequent years into a towering, 387-foot-tall (118 meters) spacecraft and booster that can carry up to 100 people into deep space.
SpaceX has already signed one customer — Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa — for a trip around the moon on a Starship vehicle in 2023.
- Elon Musk: revolutionary private space entrepreneur
- SpaceX: Facts about Elon Musk's private spaceflight company
- How living on Mars could challenge colonists (infographic)
All About Space magazine takes you on an awe-inspiring journey through our solar system and beyond, from the amazing technology and spacecraft that enables humanity to venture into orbit, to the complexities of space science.