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During tests today of SpaceX’s Starship Mk1 test prototype there was a sudden explosion, damaging the spacecraft. Below is a clip from today’s live stream showing the explosion.
They had been doing a variety of tank and venting tests for the past day. (The link includes a video showing the first pressurization test yesterday.)
The Mk1 (Mark 1) was being built with an initial hoped-for schedule targeting the first orbital flights by next year. No one took that seriously, and today’s incident reinforces that skepticism. At the same time, SpaceX has routinely recovered very quickly from its engineering test failures, treating them as opportunities for improving their designs. It is for this reason that most knowledgeable observers of the company also expected any delays to that target schedule to never be very extended.
Moreover, earlier this week SpaceX revealed that it had already decided not to fly this version and proceed to their next version. A Mk2 version is being built in Florida, so in Boca Chica they will proceed to the Mk3, with the goal to get to build toward the final operational version, what Musk labeled the Mk5. Based on past SpaceX policy, however, expect them to begin commercial flights with the earlier versions as they upgrade to the Mk5.
UPDATE: It appears the explosion occurred during a maximum pressurization test, which means they now have data telling them the limits of their tank design.