A test version of SpaceX's next-generation rocket, Starship, partially exploded during ground tests in Texas today, blowing clouds of gas and sending some pieces of hardware into the sky. Live broadcasts created by local space enthusiasts captured the real-time failure this afternoon.
The explosive result occurred while SpaceX was apparently conducting some pressure tests with the vehicle at the company's testing site in Boca Chica, Texas. Local live broadcasts showed the vehicle periodically flushing gas throughout the day, indicating that testing was underway.
This prototype was created to test the design of the spacecraft – a monstrous spacecraft in which the company is working to transport cargo and people to space destinations like the moon and Mars. In fact, that same vehicle is what SpaceX CEO Elon Musk showed reporters in September. At the time, he claimed that the test vehicle could be flying at low altitudes in the coming months and that some version of the starship could reach Earth orbit in six months.
Now this timeline is almost certain to change. After the explosion, Musk indicated on Twitter SpaceX will no longer be able to fly this particular prototype and will instead conduct flight tests with a newer, more up-to-date model that the company planned to build. "It had some value as a manufacturing discoverer, but the design of the flight is quite different," Musk wrote, referring to the prototype that burst.