The SN3, a prototype of SpaceX’s third starship, broke up during a stress test at the Boca Chica test site in Texas on Friday, local time,media reported. But thankfully, the fourth prototype is expected to be assembled within weeks to continue testing.
Pictures from the scene showed folds first appearing after the prototype was filled with ultra-cold propellants and then collapsed under gravity. It was another failure of SpaceX’s prototype testing of the Starship, which exploded in March with another SN1 in a similar stress test.
Before the failure, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that some valves had leaked during earlier tests, a problem the team had to address before retesting.
As for the cause of the starship’s eventual explosion, Musk said it could have been caused by a “misconfiguration of tests”, but the team had begun reviewing the data.
At the same time, SpaceX employees have been working hard to prepare and build hardware for future Starship prototypes, so the SN4 is expected to be assembled within weeks. SpaceX is considered a necessary company because of its contracts with NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense.
As SpaceX moves forward with the Starship program, other space companies are also grappling with how to make progress during the new coronavirus outbreak. Rocket Lab chose to abandon the launch in New Zealand to keep the staff safe. Virgin Orbit has turned to mass production of ventilators to help fill gaps in the healthcare system.
Meanwhile, Blue Origin is working to launch its New Shepard rocket, which is designed to send tourists into space, though its employees are concerned about continuing such missions during the outbreak.