SpaceX: Starship thruster catches fire during test in Texas

SpaceX: Starship thruster catches fire during test in Texas

(Reuters) – A booster developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company for its next-generation Starship spacecraft caught fire during a ground test in Texas on Monday, compromising the US billionaire’s goal of placing its spacecraft in orbit this year.

“Yeah, actually it’s not good. The team is assessing the damage,” Elon Musk said on Twitter after the early evening explosion of the 7th Super Heavy booster prototype.

Due to the explosion, which occurred during the engine’s spin-start test, the base of the rocket was engulfed in a ball of flame and thick smoke.

“In the future, we will no longer do a spin-start test with all 33 motors at the same time,” Elon Musk announced on Twitter.

The failure came amid a campaign of static tests of the booster, fitted with an array of 33 Raptor engines intended for use in an upcoming uncrewed orbital test flight that SpaceX hopes to launch later this year.

SpaceX’s Starship, which will stand 120 meters tall when mated to its booster, is the next-generation launch vehicle from Elon Musk’s company, which aims to make manned space travel more affordable and mainstream.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on Monday’s explosion.

Asked about a possible investigation following the explosion, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has also not given an answer at this time.

In late 2020 and early 2021, SpaceX lost four Starship prototypes during a series of high-altitude test launches, when attempts to land on the return ended in explosions. A Starship prototype finally landed safely in May 2021.

(Reporting Joey Roulette in Washington and Juby Babu in Bangalore; French version Federica Mileo, editing by Kate Entringer)

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