Elon Musk's massive Mars rocket suffers an explosive setback
It was a case of two steps forward, one step back for SpaceX’s Starship development program today, with a dramatic explosion from a prototype of the company’s Mars-bound rocket during testing on the ground. The fiery event took place at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas, and may delay its plans for the booster’s first orbital flight.
SpaceX had been making decent progress with the development of its Starship, the deep-space vehicle at the heart of CEO Elon Musk’s plans to establish a human settlement on Mars. Last year, following a series of failed and explosive attempts the company finally carried out a sub-orbital flight of an upper stage Starship prototype and safely landed it thereafter. Musk said recently he had hoped for an orbital flight this month.
Today’s testing involved a version of Super Heavy, the giant first-stage booster designed to power Starship into orbit with a total of 33 SpaceX Raptor engines. A firing of these engines on the pad at Boca Chica today resulted in a heavy explosion, visibly shaking cameras recording the tests as captured by NASA Spaceflight.
Holy moly. Well, that was unexpected!https://t.co/dUUqw7ojRv pic.twitter.com/7IGztPuE12— Chris Bergin - NSF (@NASASpaceflight) July 11, 2022
“Yeah, actually not good. Team is assessing damage,” tweeted Musk in response.
Though everything around the rocket appeared to remain intact, the booster did continue to emit thick smoke for some time after. Musk didn’t expand on the possible cause for the explosion, but did add context around the complexities of using cryogenic fuel, which is required for Super Heavy to generate the necessary degree of force.
“Cryogenic fuel is an added challenge, as it evaporates to create fuel-air explosion risk in a partially oxygen atmosphere like Earth,” he tweeted. “That said, we have a lot of sensors to detect this. More later.”
Source: Twitter (NASA Spaceflight)
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That said, I often wonder whether billionaires’ extraordinary resources might get be better used in solving very real problems right here on the planet beneath our feet, notably the only planet we already know *could* support the survival of all the species we already know exist.
No offense but having a lot of sensors does not seem to be enough!
Can we really say for sure that environmentally-friendly & also safe rocket biofuel is impossible?
Yeah, cryogenic fuel is very risky around Oxygen and with those narrow parameters for safety, having plenty of sensors gives them a heads up on locating the issue. Some people think the sensors should have aborted the process avoiding an explosions....not what they are designed to do, they are there to best understand the prototype's successes and failures. Engineers understand that. It isn't that you have to break a lot of pencils drawing up plans (breaking eggs for a cake) but continuously adapt the plans you have until a successful product is viable and scale-able. And no engineer will tell you the successful product will be problem free - but it is better to find the problems at this stage if you pardon the (bad) pun.