SpaceX’s Starship program encountered a setback after a test ended in a fiery explosion at its Boca Chica development facility in Texas on Monday night. The test was being conducted using a prototype version of the Super Heavy booster the space company is developing, which is designed to provide the extra lift needed to get its Starship spacecraft to orbit and beyond.
This booster prototype has 33 of SpaceX’s large Raptor engines on board, and the test was specifically designed to spin up the engines for a preview of what the startup sequence would look like prior to an actual launch. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk at first tweeted that the clearly disastrous test had ended in an expected fashion, but that tweet was quickly deleted and Musk instead acknowledged that it was “not good.”
NASA Spaceflight got footage of the fireball that resulted from the test gone wrong, which caused a fire on the launch pad that was subsequently extinguished with no injuries reported.
Starship is aiming to fly its first orbital flight test this year, though this incident could push back a timeline that has already faced a number of delays. The FAA repeatedly delayed release of a necessary environmental assessment of the impact of launching Starship from SpaceX’s so-called Starbase site in Boca Chica, but finally released the report in June, requiring a number of steps SpaceX take to mitigate its impact but largely clearing the proposed flight activities.