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SpaceX’s prototype Starship rocket partially bursts during testing in Texas

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Time to work on the next one

A screengrab of the mishap, from LabPadre’s live stream.
Image: LabPadre

A test version of SpaceX’s next-generation rocket, Starship, partially burst apart during ground tests in Texas today, erupting plumes of gas and sending some pieces of hardware soaring into the sky. Live streams set up by local space enthusiasts captured the failure in real time this afternoon.

The explosive result occurred while SpaceX was seemingly conducting some pressure tests with the vehicle at the company’s test site in Boca Chica, Texas. The local live streams showed the vehicle venting gas periodically throughout the day, indicating that testing was underway.

“The purpose of today’s test was to pressurize systems to the max, so the outcome was not completely unexpected,” a spokesperson for SpaceX told The Verge. “There were no injuries, nor is this a serious setback.”

This prototype was meant to test the design of Starship — a monster spacecraft the company is working on to transport cargo and people to deep space destinations like the Moon and Mars. In fact, this same vehicle is the one that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk showed off to reporters in September. At the time, he claimed the test vehicle could be doing flights to low altitudes within the next couple of months and that some version of Starship could reach Earth orbit within six months.

Now, that timeline is almost certain to shift. After the explosion, Musk indicated on Twitter that SpaceX may no longer fly this particular prototype and will instead conduct flight tests with a newer, more up-to-date model that the company planned to build. “This had some value as a manufacturing pathfinder, but flight design is quite different,” Musk wrote, referring to the prototype that burst.

Update November 20th, 7:24PM ET: Added comment from SpaceX.