Elon Musk’s mission to Mars received a major setback after a SpaceX Starship exploded during a pressurization test at its Boca Chica facility in Texas. The next-generation SN1 vehicle was at test stand when the malfunction occurred. It was being filled with liquid nitrogen when the explosion took place. The incident was captured by several observers and the video is being widely shared on social media. The top section went flying after the explosion and hit the ground which followed a second explosion. There were no reports of any injuries and pictures show little of Starship SN1 survived. Speculations are that Starship SN1 could only have been used for static-fire tests. Another prototype Starship SN2, which is under construction, could be used for test flights.
SpaceX has not responded to request for a remark on the incident. Interestingly, technology entrepreneur and company founder Elon Musk – who often tweets about developments related to Starship – has also not posted anything on the microblogging site about the incident. This is the second time when Elon Musk’s SN1 vehicle has exploded. Earlier in November, another such vehicle named Starship Mark 1 had failed a cryogenic pressure test. It was also undergoing a similar test when bulkhead failed and the upper part of the vehicle exploded. The company had tried to play-down the incident saying the failure was neither unexpected nor a serious setback. The company said that the explosion took place as the vehicle was being tested to check maximum pressure.
The recent test was reported to be followed by a suborbital test flight in which the vehicle was supposed to fly at an altitude of 20 kilometers before landing back on earth. Earlier in December, Musk had said that flight would take place in less than two or three months. The setback comes at a time when Musk is facing tough competition in the American space race because of companies like Blue Origin set up by billionaires Jeff Bezos. Bezos even reportedly hired Rajeev Badyal last year. Badyal is former vice president of SpaceX.