Botched SpaceX engine test ends in dramatic explosion

botched spacex engine test ends in dramatic explosion

The vapors from the anomaly caused a secondary explosion on the test stand

A botched SpaceX engine test has ended in a dramatic explosion. A qualification test of a Raptor 2 engine resulted in a massive fireball erupting into the sky at SpaceX’s McGregor facility in Texas.

The incident happened shortly after 4pm on Tuesday. Video footage showed the Raptor engine shutting down approximately 14 seconds after ignition. The shutdown appeared normal but the vapor continued to linger and dissipate beneath the engine, and a small fire then appeared at the bottom of the testing stand.

The flames expand and travelled upwards until a massive fireball that took hold of the entire tower. The company hasn't yet commented but the incident is unlikely to affect the fourth test launch of the Starship megarocket.

It's not yet known if the blast damaged the Raptor engine or the test stand. The likely gasses involved in the explosion are methane and oxygen, according to Gizmodo.

If there was a leak or combustion anomaly, these gasses could mix and ignite, resulting in a kind of fuel-air bomb that created the blast seen on Thursday. That something might have exploded on the test stand as a result of the fireball is another possibility, but we’ll have to wait for SpaceX to provide more details.

SpaceX runs qualification tests of its engines prior to incorporating them into operational rockets to ensure they meet performance and safety standards but anomalies do happen.

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The company conducted a wet dress rehearsal of the IDF-4 launch system on May 20, with company CEO Elon Musk tweeting that “Starship Flight 4 [should happen] in about two weeks," which is around the first week of June.

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