During a test last Monday, a huge ball of fire erupted from the base of Booster 7, which is a prototype Super Heavy, the gigantic first stage of Starship, which is a deep space transportation system that the SpaceX CEO Elon Musk hopes it will take humans to Mars. . The terrifying explosion occurred during a test at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in South Texas and occurred when an “engine start test” did not go as planned, according to Musk.
In a tweet, the world’s richest man admitted the fireball was unintentional and “the team is assessing the damage”.
He then gave a possible explanation for why the eruption took place, saying: “Cryogenic fuel is an additional challenge as it evaporates to create a fuel and air explosion hazard in a partially oxygenated atmosphere like Earth.
“That said, we have a lot of sensors to detect that. Later. »
Musk then added that one of the things SpaceX will do in the future is burn off hydrogen leaks that occur before ignition, presumably using small spark plugs installed under the engine of the shuttle bus.
He wrote: “This particular issue, however, was specific to the engine start test (Raptor has a complex start sequence).
“In the future, we will not do a spin-start test with all 33 motors at once. »
When asked what kind of damage the rocket was facing, Musk replied, “The base of the vehicle appears to be fine in flashlight.
“I was there an hour ago. We close the platform at night for security reasons. You will know more in the morning.
SpaceX is currently preparing Booster 7 for Starship’s first orbital test flight, which could take place in a few months.
However, it’s unclear when the fire caused significant damage to the rocket, which could delay SpaceX’s launch plans.
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The Starship system consists of two parts: the 50-meter-long titular rocket and the Super Heavy booster.
According to Musk, both Starship elements will be fully and rapidly reusable, which could make Mars colonization plans economically viable, as well as fueling other ambitious plans for deep space exploration.
Starship will be powered by 39 of SpaceX’s powerful new Raptor engines, 33 of which power the rocket’s booster stage, while six more will propel the upper stage spacecraft.
SpaceX has already launched several upper-stage Starship prototypes on high-altitude test flights, including one that even landed successfully in May 2021.
However, the next mission, which will put a Starship vehicle known as Ship 24 into orbit, will be the first liftoff of a Super Heavy.
Musk’s space company currently plans to use Starship to ferry people and cargo to the Moon, Mars and other deeper places.
NASA selected the system to become the first lander to send humans to the moon in a generation, as part of the Artemis lunar exploration program.
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