SpaceX’s next-generation Super Heavy rocket suffered an explosion during pre-launch testing on Monday afternoon.
Footage of the dramatic blast was shared by NASASpaceflight, which was livestreaming the test from SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas.
Yeah, actually not good. Team is assessing damage.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 11, 2022
Despite the force of the explosion, which occurred at the base of the rocket, the vehicle appeared to remain intact. But for more than an hour afterward, smoke could be seen pouring from the spot where the blast took place.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk described the incident as “not good” and said his team is now assessing the extent of any damage. Engineers will also be keen to find out what went wrong.
It’s too early to say if the explosion will cause SpaceX to delay the maiden launch of the Super Heavy, which is expected to one day send the Starship spacecraft on crewed voyages to the moon and even Mars.
The spaceflight company recently passed an environmental review by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), paving the way for SpaceX to use its Starbase site for rocket launches once it has completed a list of specific actions laid out by the FAA. They include keeping the local community informed of work at the site and monitoring nearby animal and plant populations to ensure they’re not adversely affected by launch events.
Following the completion of the review, Musk tweeted that the Super Heavy and Starship spacecraft — collectively known as the Starship — would be ready for the first orbital test flight later this month.
However, the launchpad explosion on Monday may push any launch plans to August or possibly beyond.
The test flight is highly anticipated as the 392-foot-tall vehicle will be the most powerful rocket ever to fly when it finally gets off the ground. Thirty-three Raptor engines will create 17 million pounds of thrust — more than double that of the Saturn V rocket that sent astronauts to the moon, and almost twice that offered by NASA’s next-generation SLS rocket, which could take its first orbital flight later this month.
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