SpaceX just destroyed a huge tank for its Starship on purpose. Here's the video!

A prototype of SpaceX's Starship Mars-colonization spacecraft blew its lid in a crucial pressure test late Tuesday (Jan. 28) in a big test for the private spaceflight company.

During a cryogenic strength test at the company's South Texas facility near the village of Boca Chica, SpaceX filled the prototype's 30-foot (9 meters) test tank with ultracold liquid nitrogen and pressurized the tank until it "popped." This video was captured by, a tourism information site for the nearby South Padre Island that offers live camera views of SpaceX's Starship work.

While the destructive test may not look like good news for the private spaceflight company, this event actually represents a major milestone for Starship. It demonstrated that the fuel tank can withstand the pressure it would experience on future human missions to the moon and Mars.

Video: Watch SpaceX destroy a Starship tank in pressurization test
Related: SpaceX's Starship and Super Heavy in Images

The Starship's test tank reached an internal pressure of 8.5 bar, or about 8.5 times the pressure of Earth's atmosphere at sea level, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted after the test. And that's exactly how much pressure Starship will need to be able to endure to be considered safe for astronauts.

Earlier this month, Musk tweeted that the spacecraft would need to withstand a pressure of 6 bar for an orbital flight without humans onboard. For safety reasons, a crewed mission would raise that requirement by a factor of 1.4, which is why the spacecraft needs to endure a pressure of 8.5 bar to safely fly astronauts.

Tuesday's test follows a similar evaluation SpaceX performed earlier this week, when the spacecraft's tank reached a pressure of 7.5 bar before springing a leak, Musk tweeted on Monday (Jan. 27). "Small leak at a weld doubler. Will be repaired & retested at cryo," he said.

A fuel tank for SpaceX's Starship prototype is destroyed during a cryogenic pressure test at the company's South Texas facility, on Jan. 28, 2020.  (Image credit:

SpaceX still has a lot of work to do before it can launch people to space on its new Starship. The company is currently building its newest Starship prototype, the SN1, at its Boca Chica facility. An earlier version, a fully assembled rocket prototype called Mk1, was destroyed in a cryogenic test in November. After that anomaly, SpaceX discontinued the development of Mk1 and a nearly identical prototype called Mk2, which was being built on Florida's Space Coast. 

"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 tweeted on Dec. 27, 2019, adding that the SN1 could be ready for its first test flight in just a few months. 

If all goes according to plan, SpaceX could start launching satellites as early as 2021, followed by uncrewed moon missions for NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program in 2022. The company also plans to launch a private crewed mission called "#dearMOON" on a flight around the moon in 2023. SpaceX has not offered an official timeline for Starship's Mars missions, but Musk has suggested that the spacecraft could help establish a human Mars base by 2028.

Email Hanneke Weitering at or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos. 

  • Admiral Lagrange
    Fantastic.... He got his 8.5 bars. The last time he blew the roof off the tank. This time it looks like he blew the bottom.

    I had some reservations about SS becoming brittle at cryogenic temperatures. Elon said the new SS actually became stronger. But in this test there wasn't any vibration like it would experience during take off.

    He was building 3 tanks last Dec. , so I wonder if he'll do it again to push it above the needed 8.5 bars .

  • EXR
    8.5 Bar is 125psig
  • Kon
    Best party ever.
  • Torbjorn Larsson
    Admiral Lagrange said:
    Fantastic.... He got his 8.5 bars. The last time he blew the roof off the tank. This time it looks like he blew the bottom.

    Yes, it was the bulkheads themselves that they had most concern with, but the welds between bulkhead and tank seem to be the weak point during tests. Still, looking at Musk's tweets they have moved to plate overlap welds to close the rings, and the test tank seemed to have overlap welds between the rings as well, so the rest of the welds should have a safety margin. The extra material should be less than a percent added mass so it seems like a reasonable precaution.

    I'm huffed - they had almost completed the first two bulkheads (of three) for SN1 last week, so SN1 is under construction. Rumor has it that they are up to Raptor SN20ish, so hopefully they will have the first 3 engines they need to start hopping the Starship when it gets to that stage. And further on, the minimalist launch platforms constructions are looking swell, just a skeleton of water cooled hold down and a water cooled exhaust deflector.