Elon Musk’s SpaceX booster rocket for its next-generation Starship spacecraft exploded into flames during a ground-test fire on Monday in Texas, putting Musk’s goal of getting Starship into orbit this year in jeopardy.
“Yeah, actually not good. Team is assessing damage,” Musk said on Twitter after the early evening explosion of the Super Heavy Booster 7 prototype, as seen in a livestream recorded by the website NASA Spaceflight.
There was no immediate sign of injury.
Musk said on Tuesday that the explosion, which consumed the rocket’s base in a ball of flames and thick smoke and appeared to shake the video camera, was particular to the engine spin start test.
“Going forward, we won’t do a spin start test with all 33 engines at once,” he wrote on Twitter.
The booster remained erect and was later fastened to a test gantry.
The accident occurred during a days-long static fire test campaign of the launcher in Boca Chica, Texas, which was outfitted with an array of 33 Raptor engines for use in a planned uncrewed orbital test flight SpaceX hoped to launch later this year.
The full Starship, which will stand 394 feet (120 meters) tall when combined with its super-heavy first-stage booster, is SpaceX’s next-generation launch vehicle at the heart of Musk’s goals to make human space travel more accessible and routine.
A Reuters request for comment on Monday’s explosion was not immediately returned.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States also did not react immediately when asked if it will investigate the explosion.
SpaceX lost four prototypes of the Starship itself in a series of high-altitude test launches in late 2020 and early 2021 when the return landing attempts resulted in explosions. In May 2021, the Starship prototype successfully landed.