A test version of SpaceX's next-generation rocket, Starship, partially disintegrated during ground tests in Texas today, erupting a jet of gas and sending pieces of hardware soaring into the sky. Live streams created by local space enthusiasts captured the damage in real time this afternoon.
The explosive result occurred while SpaceX was apparently conducting some vehicle pressure tests at the company's test site in Boca Chica, Texas. Local live streams periodically showed the vehicle producing gas, indicating that the tests were in progress.
This prototype is designed to test the design of Starship, a monster spacecraft that the company works to transport cargo and humans to deep space destinations such as the moon and Mars. In fact, the same vehicle is what SpaceX CEO Elon Musk showed reporters in September. At the time, he claimed that the test vehicle could fly at low altitudes within the next few months and that some version of Starship could reach Earth orbit within six months. Following the explosion, Musk stated on Twitter that SpaceX may no longer fly this particular prototype and will instead conduct flight tests with a newer and more up-to-date model that the company plans to build. "It did have some value as a production route, but the design of the flight was completely different," Musk wrote, referring to the prototype that burst.