Sorry for the less-than-sensitive title, but feeling somber isn’t really necessary right now. No one was hurt, the failure was half-expected, and SpaceX will move on. Remember: this is why they test.
Now, let’s back up.
Wednesday afternoon, SpaceX was conducting a pressure test of their Starship prototype in Boca Chica, TX. The same vehicle that was on display for the unveiling back in September. This test would have been a precursor to a 20 km test flight.
During the test, which according to SpaceX, “was to pressurize systems to the max,” the bulkhead popped off, putting off a massive vapor cloud produced by the cryogenic fluids inside.
SpaceX was pretty quick to release a statement:
The purpose of today’s test was to pressurize systems to the max, so the outcome was not completely unexpected. There were no injuries, nor is this a serious setback.
As Elon tweeted, Mk1 served as a valuable manufacturing pathfinder but flight design is quite different. The decision had already been made to not fly this test article and the team is focused on the Mk3 builds, which are designed for orbit.SpaceX
Twitter blew up, as it does when these things happen, and several videos were released showing the failure. This one is from LabPadre on YouTube and Maria Pointer, who have been streaming Starship progress 24/7 for quite some time now.
Obviously, we won’t get to see Starship Mk1 fly, and there are even questions about whether Mk2 (the prototype in Florida) will fly. We will just have to wait and see. But don’t worry, there are still many more awesome things happening in spaceflight!