Capitalism in space: The most recent engine test on November 12th of SpaceX’s eighth Starship prototype had a problem that will delay its planned 50,000 foot test hop.
The Starship SN8 vehicle performed its third brief “static fire” — a test in which engines are ignited while a rocket remains tethered to the ground — at SpaceX’s South Texas facility on Thursday, near the village of Boca Chica.
Shortly after the test, which several outside organizations webcast live, material could be seen apparently dripping from SN8’s base. This looked odd, and SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk soon confirmed that something off-nominal had happened. “We lost vehicle pneumatics. Reason unknown at present. Liquid oxygen header tank pressure is rising. Hopefully triggers burst disk to relieve pressure, otherwise it’s going to pop the cork,” Musk said via Twitter on Thursday night. (Burst disks are single-use devices that, like valves, seal off different sections or systems of a vehicle. They relieve pressure when they open, as Musk noted.)
The cause of the problem is unknown at the moment, Musk said in another Thursday tweet: “Maybe melted an engine preburner or fuel hot gas manifold. Whatever it is caused pneumatics loss. We need to design out this problem.”
The decision to pin down the cause and redesign things so it won’t happen again makes perfect sense, but it also means that the hop will not occur in the next week or so, as hoped for by the company. Expect a delay. Based on the pace that SpaceX works, that delay however should not be longer than one or two months.
Readers! My Quick November Fund-Raiser for Behind the Black is now over
I cannot thank the numerous people who so generously donated or subscribed to Behind the Black during this fund drive. The response was remarkable, and reflected the steady growth and popularity of the work I have been doing here for the past ten-plus years.
Thank you again!
Though the find-raising campaign is officially over, and I am no longer plastering the main page with requests for help, if you like what you have read you can still contribute, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.
Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:
If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
Cortaro, AZ 85652