SpaceX’s fourth Starship prototype, called SN4, vanished into a fireball at SpaceX’s Boca Chica site in Texas. It exploded at about 1:49 p.m. CDT (2:49 p.m. EDT/1849 GMT). The explosion occurred about a minute after the engine was ignited for a pressurized test.
Starship SN4 vehicle is the prototype built by SpaceX for testing technologies required for a truly massive space launch system. SpaceX has ambitious plans of sending up to 100 passengers to the Moon and Mars.
SpaceX’s first prototype, the Starship Mk1, was destroyed during a pressure test in November 2019. Prototype SN1 was lost in similar test in February. The next prototype, SN2 fixed SN1’s failure. The SN3 prototype was also destroyed due to a test configuration error.
The SN4 had passed many significant milestones during development. It signifies a big step forward in SpaceX’s race to get Starship off the ground.
Elon Musk is very hopeful that in this year, Starship would be ready for its first orbital test flight. He is confident that they would send the rocket over 12 miles into orbit and land it back in the same spot it took off from.
Senior space editor at Ars Technica Eric Berger said, “SpaceX got a lot further with SN4 than previous vehicles, and SN5 seems about ready to go for testing,”
“They also have begun working on a second launch stand in Boca Chica.”
“So this is a setback, and a dramatic one,” Berger added. “But it’s a process.”