While preparations for the launch of the SpaceX DM-2 mission continue regularly in Cape Canaveral, at Boca Chica the prototype Serial Number 4 of Starship exploded in a giant blaze around 20:49 Italian tonight.
At the time of the explosion, the fifth test ignition of the Raptor engine had just ended, which does not seem to have been the direct cause of the incident. A few seconds after the rapid static fire a large leak of gas started (it is not clear at the moment if it was oxygen or methane) from the bottom of the Starship metal base.
The cloud that was created expanded more and more, until, in all probability, it came in contact with the flames of the flaming tower where excess gas is normally burned, which provided the trigger and caused a gigantic explosion. .
The slow motion analysis of the images taken by various fans of the sector, among which the LabPadre and NasaSpaceFlight.com crews stand out, revealed that the launch pad has probably suffered serious damage. The shock wave caused large steel fragments to fly away as if they were paper, together with pipes, COPV and fragments that went to perforate some of the nearby silos.
Starship SN4 has been the prototype of the new SpaceX spaceship that has survived the test campaign longer. After his predecessors practically gave in to the first pressurization attempt, the latter brilliantly passed five ignitions, before disintegrating.
For now it is not clear whether the leak came from the Starship itself or from the rupture of one of the pipes for the transport of the propellants to the ramp. SpaceX has always been reluctant to disseminate the objectives and details of the tests on Starship, so much so that all the images, including those included in this article, come only from groups of enthusiasts who have positioned high-definition cameras in the village of Boca Chica.
At the time of writing, the remains of SN4 are still on fire near the ramp.
We recommend following the evolution of the situation in real time directly to the discussion on ForumAstronautico.it.
All images are © LabPadre via YouTube.
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