‘Not good’: Elon Musk’s SpaceX massive Mars rocket booster suffers an explosive setback

Today’s catastrophic explosion from a rocket prototype used by SpaceX to test its Mars-bound rocket was a case of two steps ahead, one step back for the company’s Starship development program. The explosive incident may cause SpaceX to postpone its plans for the booster’s first orbital launch. It happened at the company’s Boca Chica plant in Texas.

With the construction of the Starship, the deep-space spaceship at the center of CEO Elon Musk’s aspirations to build a human colony on Mars, SpaceX has been making respectable progress. An upper-stage Starship prototype was successfully launched into suborbit last year after a string of unsuccessful and explosive attempts, and it was then safely landed. Recently, Musk said that he intended to do an orbital trip this month.

The Super Heavy first-stage rocket, which will launch Starship into orbit using 33 SpaceX Raptor engines, underwent testing today. Today’s test fire of these engines at Boca Chica resulted in a powerful explosion that could be seen shaking NASA Spaceflight cameras that were filming the testing.

“Actually not good, yeah. The team is evaluating the damage,” Musk said in a tweet.

Despite the fact that everything surrounding the rocket looked to be intact, the booster continued to produce dense smoke for some time thereafter. 

Musk did not elaborate on the potential cause of the explosion, but he did provide background information on the challenges of utilizing cryogenic fuel, which is essential for Super Heavy to provide the requisite amount of force. In a partly oxygen environment like Earth, cryogenic fuel poses an additional issue since it evaporates, increasing the possibility of a fuel-air explosion. “Having said that, we have several sensors to find this. More to come.

Source: New Atlas

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Written by Alex Bruno

Freelance space writer Alex Bruno specializes in covering China's quickly expanding space industry. In 2021, he started writing for SpaceXMania. He also contributes to publications including SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, and New Scientist. When Alex was a small child, he first experienced the space bug after seeing Voyager photographs of alien planets in our solar system. When not in space, Alex likes to go trail jogging in the Finnish countryside.

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