WASHINGTON — For the third time in less than five months, a prototype of SpaceX’s Starship next-generation launch vehicle was destroyed in a test at the company’s South Texas facilities April 3, although this failure may an issue with the test itself.
The Starship SN3 vehicle was on the pad at SpaceX’s test site at Boca Chica, Texas, in the early morning hours of April 3 for a cryogenic tanking test, where the vehicle’s propellant tanks are filled with liquid nitrogen. Shortly after 3 a.m. Eastern, the cylindrical vehicle appeared to crumple about halfway up, causing the top part of the vehicle to topple.
The accident marks the third time a prototype of Starship failed that cryogenic tanking test. In November 2019, the Starship Mark 1 vehicle suffered a bulkhead failure during a similar test, sending debris flying. The company said at the time that the incident took place in a test intended to “pressurize systems to the max, so the outcome was not completely unexpected.”
A second Starship vehicle, SN1, was also destroyed in a cryogenic tanking test Feb. 28, this time with the vehicle bursting near its base. Elon Musk, founder and chief executive of SpaceX, said that ...