SpaceX Starship Mk1 Exploded on the Test Stand

SpaceX Starship Mk1 exploded on the test stand as they were loading it with liquid oxygen for a pressure test.

SpaceX will move to Mk3 design.

33 thoughts on “SpaceX Starship Mk1 Exploded on the Test Stand”

  1. Pressure vessels/systems are usually tested to “proof pressure”, which is above max operating pressure, but still below a pressure level that would cause plastic yield of the structure, and well below the design “burst pressure” that would produce catastrophic failure of the structure.

    The purpose of most qualification testing performed in aerospace, like this particular example, is to validate design and analysis work. For a structural qual test, there should have been instrumentation, like strain gauges, thermocouples, etc. all over the tank structure to record data that can be used to verify their analysis models. Otherwise the test was simply a waste of time and money.

  2. The video has a frame showing the seam letting go. If it is not a bad weld then it had to be an over pressure event. Elon initially said that it was a max pressure test and thus not over its design pressure. This means it did not hold up to what it was supposed to, i.e. a bad weld.
    However, after I made the previous comment I did see a tweet from Elon suggesting that it did go over pressure by accident. I don’t have links though.

  3. Nope, I don’t think that this design methology will work well after manned flights start, specially not on Mars.

  4. You guys are all smoking crack. They tested, and something broke the million $’s prototype at t +60. Study, reset clock to +20. .

  5. You really don’t want to proof test with pressurized gas, that stores a lot of energy. In this case it was cryogenic liquid, because they were testing for temperature effects, too, and only the headspace would have stored energy.

  6. I think SpaceX has done a good job demonstrating that hardware rather than simulation is a much cheaper, faster, and better way to project development. Even with the scale and complexity of such a gigantic reusable rocket, real progress doesn’t happen until you actually start building and testing the damn thing. Sure SpaceX runs plenty of simulations themselves, but if a simulation isn’t perfect they don’t let it slow down their progress. Even unexpected setbacks don’t slow progress much. Even if the first 2 prototypes never even leave the ground, they now have 2 large teams with experience putting together an incredibly complex structure the scale of which hasn’t been seen since Saturn V in the 60’s. Even with setbacks like yesterday, the cost to develop this rocket is going to be much smaller than projects of similar scale, and it’s going to be a far more capable machine than anything before it.

  7. I hear that a(nother) Starship design change caused them to decide to not fly this one at all and to just pressure- test it to destruction to test manufacturing methods.
    Seems fair.

  8. Obviously Elon planned on a few rockets exploding… that’s why they Have 2 backup prototypes waiting in line… Crudeness of each rocket prototype just is a vote of confidence that the current prototype stage won’t explode…

  9. Musk said later on Twitter they had already decided that Mk1 woud be used only for testing construction methods, they would not use it for flight tests.

    That’s probably why they tested pressure to the max in the tanks of Mk1.

    The question now is what they plan to do with Mk2.

  10. Rumor on SpaceX groups:
    SpaceX engineers came up with a starship redesign – potentially a major one. That’s why Musk went directly to mark 3.
    As for the mark 1 – it was a planned destructive testing: they increased tank pressure way beyond maximal safe level until said tank blew. See the lack of venting and how far starship top’s flew.

  11. Yep. While in government this could likely mean a special committee investigation with hearings and a lot of betrayal and finger pointing, in the private sector this is just another test adding up to the next.

  12. Great point about the consistency. I imagine eventually robots will be doing seems, and larger sheets will be used so fewer seams are needed.

    I don’t think this is evidence that SpaceX are close to having gone to far with the slap it together approach. The cost of this experiment was extremely low. Not good PR, but that’s about it.

  13. You can pressure-test a tank with compressed air – but that’s not going to get you the same results as LOX at the same pressure.

    Sometimes you’re just not going to get good data until you test at the temperatures and pressures you’ll be operating at.

  14. The failure demonstrates down side of building this rocket outside in a desert. Reliability of welds (from weld to weld) is far more important than the ultimate strength of any given weld. The welding process may typically give a very high strength that well exceeds the spec, but if this is not consistent then then it is quite worthless since the system is only as strong as the weakest link. Having all the welds perform equally well, having a small standard deviation using statistical process control language, is of the ultimate importance. This consistency with welding is very hard to achieve in the field and is best achieved in an enclosed area with robotic welding.
    It is great that Elon is busting out of old modes of rocket development where a phd dissertation is performed on every step of the process but this slap it together approach can go too far. It looked like a pile of junk slapped together and performed likewise.
    On the other hand, he has gotten very far with this new technique and has other prototypes in the works and no one got hurt with this unexpected episode of destructive testing. I just hope he has enough data to determine what defects to look for in the future to prevent further set backs. I also hope that by the time they put people on board they get a well developed robotic welding process established.

  15. A stainless tank like this could probably be patched and put back into testing too, rather than a carbon fibre tank which would shatter irreparably.

  16. It’s a much quicker way forward to test, test and test. But when you forego years of simulations, it’s only to expect that some prototypes go up in flames. Would you prefer the pace that Boing keeps when developing their rockets? Or Nasa, or Esa…?

  17. …But Elon is different, he can rush it. The more it doesn’t work or explode he can jump to the next stage, he also know how to multiply.

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