Explosion during test of 4th Starship prototype


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Capitalism in space: SpaceX engineers experienced another explosion during testing of their fourth Starship prototype today, completely destroying the protoype.

They already have their fifth prototype almost complete, so I expect they will clean up the debris, analyze again what went wrong, and start testing again.

At a certain point however these explosions have got to end, or else the project will begin to be in trouble.

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14 comments

  • Patrick Underwood

    Despite its being an obvious happy compromise between Isp and density, liquid methane/LOX had never seen much development before SpaceX. They are basically pioneering the large-scale implementation of this prop combination. So they are going to come up with some new failure modes, as they already have with COPVs and the chemistry of titanium.

    I’m amazed at just how volatile this prop combo looks to be. It’s scary! But they are going to conquer it.

  • Dick Eagleson

    If each explosion occurs further along in the test sequence, then the project is not in trouble.

  • eddie willers

    It sure packed a punch.

  • Mark McSherry

    Patrick: Your comment reminds me of Manly Wade Wellman’s short story in the June 1938 Astounding Science Fiction, “Men Against the Stars.” Manned rockets, using an unstable atomic hydrogen fuel, blow up traveling to Mars from the Moon.

    https://sfmagazines.com/?p=4858

  • Captain Emeritus

    How many Falcon 9’s crash landed in the early attempts of the impossible?
    SpaceX solved those problems and have LANDED 44 of 52 attempts.
    The SpaceX Starship (or something very similar) will be earth’s first true Spaceship.
    Thank you Mr. Musk.

  • Ray Van Dune

    I had often noted the extremely robust appearance of the test stand, apparently constructed of steel I-beams of 10/12-inchs width or more. Post-explosion I saw no trace of it. Ho Li Kow!

  • Patrick Underwood

    Mark McSherry, as a long-time sf reader, your comment made my day. I’ll definitely dig into that web site.

  • wayne

    Patrick–
    you might enjoy this collection as well:

    https://archive.org/details/pulpmagazinearchive

  • pzatchok

    It looks like an O2 venting from either a busted line, hose or even the tank.

    It didn’t ignite until several seconds after the venting started.
    And it looks like the flame front came from the burn off stack and not the rocket itself.

    they are going to have to move the burn off stack farther away and maybe add a water mist system to help keep any accidentally vented O2 or methane from staying too concentrated.

    High speed cams would help a bit.

  • Stephen M Sharer

    I have to agree with Mr. Zimmerman that unless they stop these ongoing issues with testing , the starship program will be in trouble. I honestly have been having doubts about their approach to the starship development efforts. I hope they can prove me wrong in the long run.

  • Patrick Underwood

    Thanks Wayne!

    Funny that SpaceX is attempting to launch Bob-n-Doug this morning, a day after blowing up a rocket!

    Go Bob-n-Doug!

  • Jason Hillyer

    I disagree with your last statement, Mr. Zimmerman. I think the explosions (failures) allow SpaceX to quickly learn what improvements are needed. The way I see it, the more explosions, the better.

    “The greatest teacher, failure is.”
    – Master Yoda

  • Jason Hillyer: I actually agree more with you than myself. I just thought it important to note that at some point, they need to get past the fueling, pressurization, and static fire tests and actually start the first hops.

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