SpaceX’s first full-scale Starship prototype – Mk1 – has experienced a failure at its Boca Chica test site in southern Texas. The failure occurred late in the afternoon on Wednesday, midway through a test of the vehicle’s propellant tanks.
As of a few weeks ago, the Mk1 Starship – which was shown off to the world in September as part of SpaceX’s and Elon Musk’s presentation of the design changes to the Starship system – was to fly the first 20 km test flight of the program in the coming weeks.
The main event of today, the Mk1 Starship’s first cryogenic loading test, involved filling the methane and oxygen tanks with a cryogenic liquid.
During the test, the top bulkhead of the vehicle ruptured and was ejected away from the site, followed by a large cloud of vapors and cryogenic liquid from the tank.
The cryogenic liquid – likely liquid oxygen or liquid nitrogen – was carried by the wind and dispersed over the launch complex.
The top bulkhead was seen landing nearby, but its precise location is unknown.
The bottom tank bulkhead appeared to fail as well. A second cloud of vapor appeared out of the base of the vehicle at the same time that the top ruptured – signaling that the entire internal tank structure may have failed.
Elon Musk is fine with it though. I’m glad I’m not sitting in it!