A super-heavy booster of the Starship system unexpectedly exploded during a ground test of SpaceX, a space exploration technology company, on Monday afternoon local time.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk hopes the company will launch the Starship system in July, and SpaceX is currently testing it at its facility in Boca Chica, Texas, but what happened on Monday Accidental explosions could complicate the original plan.
The explosion, which occurred at around 5:20 p.m. ET on Monday, is considered very accidental and very serious. There is no word yet on the cause of the accident or if anyone was injured in the accident. After the explosion, a fire broke out near the launch pad; an hour after the accident, flames, and smoke could still be seen on the launch pad, but the situation across the test site did not appear to have continued to deteriorate.
SpaceX did not schedule a static fire test on Monday, and the launch pad was not prepared or cleared for a similar test. It can be seen from the video that, before the explosion, the gas ejected directly from the super-heavy booster increased sharply, creating a large fireball and shock wave. SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
SpaceX is currently testing the "Super Heavy Booster 7" at the Starship base in Boca Chica. The prototype Super Heavy booster with 33 Raptor engines just arrived at the launch pad in late June. According to the original plan, the Starship will eventually be stacked on the No. 7 Super Heavy booster to form a complete Starship system. Musk hopes to conduct an orbital test of the entire Starship system in July, but that seems unlikely to go as planned given Monday's explosion.
It is unclear what damage the explosion did to the No. 7 Super Heavy booster. The No. 7 Super Heavy booster was likely damaged in the explosion, either by dozens of Raptor engines or by the booster itself. SpaceX may have to repair or replace the booster and determine the cause of the accident. In addition, a pair of robotic arms called "chopsticks" are installed on the launch pad to lift and hold the booster. It is also unclear whether the accident damaged the launcher.
SpaceX's goal is to use the Starship system to transport cargo and passengers to Earth orbit, the Moon, and Mars. The company has contracted with NASA to use the Starship system to send astronauts to the lunar surface. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently approved SpaceX's plans to expand its base, bringing the Starship system one step closer to its first launch.