Incomplete Starship prototypes are a common sight if you follow SpaceX’s plethora of rocket-centric projects, but just this past week, Starship made headlines once again after a fourth Starship prototype was observed at the center of a massive explosion that damaged the surrounding Texas-based test facility.
The first thing that probably comes to mind with the mere mention of “SpaceX” is the company’s successful crewed Demo-2 mission with NASA yesterday, and thankfully, Starship isn’t linked to Demo-2 or the Falcon 9 rocket that carried the Crew Dragon spacecraft into space. It just so happens to be an unfortunately timed loss for SpaceX being that the company set a precedent this weekend for its part in sending astronauts to space from American soil for the first time since the Space Shuttle era.
Since Starship was just a side-project of SpaceX’s, no one was actually in or near the stainless-steel prototype when it exploded, and so nobody was injured.
From what we can gather, SpaceX was merely testing engine ignition when Starship’s cryogenic fuel chamber suddenly started leaking. While the liquid oxygen wasn’t much of a threat, the same couldn’t be said about the liquid methane, which quickly flared up at the source of ignition below Starship. The aftermath speaks for itself.
Starship explosions are nothing new, and SpaceX will unquestionably work on another Starship prototype in the future. In the light of the company’s work with NASA on sending astronauts into space, however, Elon Musk has allegedly ordered the company to put Starship on the back burner as it focuses more of its resources on crewed missions. That said, it could be a while longer before more Starship prototypes surface.