Because of the weather, SpaceX and NASA canceled a manned space launch Thursday, 17 minutes before the launch, which will be at 3:22 p.m. local time on May 30. The fourth prototype of SpaceX’s next-generation Starship spacecraft exploded on Friday while testing at the company’s test site in southern Texas,media reported.
Shortly after SpaceX ignited the engine on the test rocket, a giant fireball engulfed the prototype into flames, leaving little hardware and damaging the test site.
The explosion occurred a day before SpaceX’s upcoming manned launch of a manned spacecraft to NASA, which will send two astronauts to the International Space Station. The historic launch is the first time the United States has sent astronauts from home to the International Space Station in nearly a decade, and the first time that humans have been sent to the International Space Station by a private company. The mission will be launched in Cape Canaveral, Florida, using SpaceX’s main Falcon 9 rocket, which has flown more than 100 times.
While the failure of the Starship prototype has nothing to do with NASA’s upcoming window, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told Aviation Weekly in an interview that SpaceX plans to suspend Starship development and focus instead on its first manned flight. “We’ve repositioned SpaceX’s focus to manned space launches,” Musk told Aviation Weekly in a podcast interview released on May 26. As a result, Starship’s progress will slow. “
The explosive prototype is designed to test SpaceX’s future Starship design, which the company hopes to build to send people to space destinations such as the moon and Mars. SpaceX has built various prototype versions of Starship at its company in Boca Chica, Texas. Today, the company ignited the Raptor main engine on the latest prototype, a test called static ignition, while lowering the ship’ down. It is understood to be SpaceX’s fifth static ignition test in the past few weeks.
The explosion marked another failure and destroyed Starship’s prototype. During the pressurization test, SpaceX had lost three previous test versions of the design, which could have caused the spacecraft to explode. This particular starship went further than other ships during the test. But because of this failure, there seems to be nothing to save, and the area around the test site seems to have been somewhat damaged. It was not immediately clear whether anyone was injured in the blast. SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment before the announcement.
SpaceX plans to conduct low-altitude flight tests in the coming days if the Starship prototype is intact. On May 28, the Federal Aviation Administration granted SpaceX permission to use the Boca Chica launch vehicle for a “suborbital reusable launch vehicle mission.” The FAA also imposed air restrictions on the launch site on June 1 to prevent spacecraft from flying below 26,000 feet in the area. Now, as SpaceX focuses on developing its next prototype, those restrictions may be lifted.