Yet another static fire test was just conducted by SpaceX on Raptor engine in starship SN4 PROTOTYPE LAUNCH on Friday when the test vehicle exploded on the test stand in Boca Chica, Texas. This was the fourth static fire test of this engine on the prototype, so it’s still a surprise how this attempt went wrong over other static fire attempts.
As a test made in its own development, which is a new spacecraft in Boca Chica which is been developed by SpaceX. However, this new development is made to replace the Falcon I and Falcon Heavy rocket, but starship is quite early in its the development phase, whereas those vehicles are flight-proven, multiple times over.
SpaceX had just secured FAA approval to fly its Starship prototype for short, suborbital test flights. The goal was to fly this SN4 prototype for short distances following static fire testing, but that clearly won’t be possible now, as the vehicle appears to have been completely destroyed in the explosion following Friday’s test, as you can see below in the stream from NASASpaceflight.com.
In Texas, this explosion occurred around 1:49 pm, roughly two minutes after engine fire test has been concluded. Through a series of questions are been thrown to SpaceX to know the cause of this explosion. SpaceX typically takes plenty of safety precautions when running these tests, including ensuring the area is well clear of any person or other individuals.
The truth is this isn’t the first time that SpaceX has met a catastrophic engine fire test disaster caused by its own starship prototype. A couple of previous test vehicles succumbed to pressure testing while being put through their paces. This is why starships are tested frequently and stress test vehicles during development by companies, to ensure incredible safety and reliability from final operational vehicles when needed for use.
SpaceX is already working on additional prototypes, including assembling SN5 nearby in Boca Chica, so it’s likely to resume its testing program quickly once it can clear the test stand and move in the newest prototype. This is a completely separate endeavour from SpaceX’s work on the Commercial Crew program, so that historic first test launch with astronauts on board should proceed either Saturday or Sunday as planned, depending on the weather.