Starship orbital test flight suffers possible setback after booster test ends in explosion

SpaceX’s plans for the first Starship orbital test flight suffered a potential setback yesterday after a test of the booster rockets ended in an explosion.

The incident took place on Monday at Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas. A prototype version of the booster with 33 Raptor engines on board was supposed to fire up to test the launch sequence, which CEO Elon Musk called a spin start test.

Unfortunately something didn’t go as planned, with a large explosion occurring just seconds after the test began. NASA Space Flight (@NASASpaceFlight) caught the moment on camera, saying “Holy moly. Well that was unexpected.”

Initially Musk called the explosion expected, but that tweet was later deleted and replaced with one saying “Yeah, actually not good. Team is assessing damage.”

Musk went on to explain in a later tweet that the problem was “specific to the engine start test” and that in the future the same test won’t be conducted with “all 33 engines at once.”

The good news is that the booster remained standing following the explosion, and the resulting fire was quickly extinguished. However it is still unclear how much damage the Raptor engines sustained, and if whatever problem occurred could result in a delay to the test flight.

SpaceX was hoping to launch their first orbital test flight soon. The company recently rolled out Starship 24 to the launch pad, where it will be stacked on top of a different booster.

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