SpaceX Starship booster in flames after unexpected ignition

Space oddity definitely not a metaphor for a corporate takeover going down the tubes

Space fans bored of waiting for the James Webb Space Telescope briefing were treated to fireworks of a very different nature after SpaceX's latest Starship prototype suffered an explosive anomaly during testing.

Super Heavy Booster 7 was on its orbital mount during the test, which was a step on the road to a static fire test. Ignition of the 33 Raptor engines fitted to the stage was not expected, although things did go decidedly fiery at the 43 minute mark in this video streamed by the NASASpaceflight.com team.

The booster remained upright after the explosion, and while SpaceX has yet to officially comment on the incident company boss Elon Musk aditted the event was less than ideal.

Still, this is why testing is important. And the lesson for SpaceX? "Going forward, we won’t do a spin start test with all 33 engines at once," added Musk.

The question now is what this means for Super Heavy Booster 7 and its complement of Raptor engines. Musk confirmed the pad had been shutdown for the night and the "Base of the vehicle seems ok by flashlight."

Further inspection will be required, bit it appears that chunks of the pad infrastructure look a little toasty, at least to untrained eyes. The shockwave from the detonation also shook cameras monitoring the happenings at SpaceX's Boca Chica facility.

NASA own enormorocket, the SLS, is due for launch by the end of August and there was a possibility that SpaceX might have been able to launch the first orbital Starship at the same time.

The orbital SpaceX Starship stack is a two-stage vehicle. The first stage, the Super Heavy Booster, was the vehicle involved in the test, and is equipped with 33 of the company's Raptor enginers. Together, both booster and Starship second stage are expected to attempt a launch to orbit in the coming months, with the latter splashing down in the Pacific Ocean while the former will either be dunked in the ocean or attempt a landing. Eventually both stages are planned to be reusable.

It is not immediately clear if and how much of a delay last night's incident will cause. It is just over a year since a Starship prototype completed a high altitude flight and landed without exploding.

SpaceX has also been engaged in a lengthy dance with the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) regarding a permit to launch its giant Starship stack from Boca Chica. It is not immediately clear what regulators will make of the most recent incident as it performs its assessments.

A spokesperson at the Federal Avaiation Administration (FAA), told us:

"The FAA is in close contact with SpaceX as the company looks into the fire that occurred as part of its Super Heavy booster rocket development. The law limits the FAA's safety oversight to protecting the public during scheduled launch and reentry operations. Yesterday's event does not fall under the agency's jurisdiction."

The Register contacted SpaceX for comment. ®

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