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posted by janrinok on Friday May 24, @07:09PM   Printer-friendly
from the if-at-first-you-dont-succeed dept.

Massive explosion rocks SpaceX Texas facility, Starship engine in flames

Elon Musk had recently announced that Starship's fourth flight test could be just days away.

[...] SpaceX has yet to provide an update on the explosion, which took place at its Boca Chica Starbase facilities in southern Texas. The footage shows SpaceX's engine test pad going up in flame.

The footage started a little after 4:12 pm local time. Roughly 14 seconds after ignition, the Raptor engine shut off. As the vapor surrounding the test tower dissipated, a fire appeared to start underneath the engine. These flames traveled upwards, causing a second explosion to engulf the entire tower.

In a tweet accompanying a clip from the footage, NASASpaceflight wrote, "The raptor testing stand at McGregor experienced an anomaly a few moments ago. The vapors from the anomaly caused a secondary explosion on the test stand."

A short video is here.


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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by VLM on Friday May 24, @07:57PM (4 children)

    by VLM (445) on Friday May 24, @07:57PM (#1358088)

    Not every "big fire" is an explosion. Looks like the tanks are still standing and the support structure is still there, at least mostly.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by ElizabethGreene on Friday May 24, @08:19PM (2 children)

      by ElizabethGreene (6748) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 24, @08:19PM (#1358092) Journal

      It was a big whatever it was. Video here: https://twitter.com/NASASpaceflight/status/1793758052128354564 [twitter.com] The orange smoke surprises me. These engines are methane/oxygen, which make white or grey smoke. Orange smoke indicates NOx, which I'd expect from engines using a nitrogen based oxidizer, e.g. the SuperDracos and dinitrogen tetroxide.

      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Friday May 24, @08:52PM

        by VLM (445) on Friday May 24, @08:52PM (#1358100)

        I was thinking if the tanks were full, turned into swiss cheese by a turbopump tossing its blades, and it mixed and then ignited, there would just be a flash and a giant empty crater. Everything's mostly present afterwards implying it was basically a huge bonfire, not an explosion. I don't see substantial "chunks" raining back to earth, for example.

        However, what if the fire mostly happened after the tanks were empty; that would explain the relative lack of obvious visible destruction even if the tanks got swiss-cheesed, AND it could fit your insight about smoke if we're mostly seeing incinerated paints and burned up insulation and lube oils and just random stuff that was lying around like golf cart tires and test leads and test equipment etc.

      • (Score: 2) by Spamalope on Saturday May 25, @01:06AM

        by Spamalope (5233) on Saturday May 25, @01:06AM (#1358115) Homepage

        That's really bad fuel air mixture leading to poor combustion. The black can just be soot from that. Other smoke may be paint/wire insulation, hoses burning...

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by driverless on Saturday May 25, @08:02AM

      by driverless (4770) on Saturday May 25, @08:02AM (#1358134)

      It was also on a test stand, not during an actual launch. This is why they have test stands, to test things and avoid blowing up the full rocket + payload. "Fire at test stand" != "rocket blows up on the launching pad".

  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24, @08:14PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24, @08:14PM (#1358091)

    Something about regulations being laxer over there...

  • (Score: 2, Informative) by Se5a on Friday May 24, @08:33PM

    by Se5a (20629) on Friday May 24, @08:33PM (#1358096)

    Pretty sure it was in McGregor, not Boca.

  • (Score: 4, Informative) by Spamalope on Saturday May 25, @01:11AM (8 children)

    by Spamalope (5233) on Saturday May 25, @01:11AM (#1358116) Homepage

    That's a fireball not an explosion (or a tiny open air mini-whump). The motor and nearby plumbing certainly suffered along with the pad's paint but that's it. I'm not sure how much more benign a failure with rocket fuel can be. If the motor isn't repairable it'll most likely be because of what failed ahead of the fireball, not the fireball as it didn't look that hot. (cool orange flames not white hot and no huge over-pressure)

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by epitaxial on Saturday May 25, @03:17AM (6 children)

      by epitaxial (3165) on Saturday May 25, @03:17AM (#1358121)

      The mental gymnastics here are astounding. A fireball is just a very low order explosion.

      It's fine, it's totally fine. That will buff out.

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Spamalope on Saturday May 25, @03:51AM (2 children)

        by Spamalope (5233) on Saturday May 25, @03:51AM (#1358124) Homepage

        Gymnastics? For what?
        Watch. They'll be damage. It's not catastrophic. They'll fix the test pad. It won't take long. They're making lots of Raptors. They'll fix that one or make another.
        In the range of energy of a RUD, that's low. I didn't see any part of the stand destroyed and blown outward. They're liable to have a high energy RUD on or near the ground at some point. There is enough power there to leave a significant crater. The energy in a fully fueled stack is immense. Developing a larger than Saturn vehicle with significant (far more/faster then other rocket programs, ever) changes every vehicle... they aren't waiting to perfect a block design. They're moving on every time even though the skin doesn't look hugely different - high risk endeavor all around.
        It's exciting to see all the new vehicles coming online from ULA, Blue Origin etc.

        • (Score: 4, Touché) by RedGreen on Saturday May 25, @12:37PM (1 child)

          by RedGreen (888) on Saturday May 25, @12:37PM (#1358154)

          "Gymnastics? For what?"

          Trying to nitpick and downplay the event that happened as happens with the Musky fanbois and their delusion that he and his companies can do no wrong or make any mistakes. The dear leader of the cult must always be protected from bad news when he/they fuck up, pretty pathetic actually watching it with anything that Nazi piece of shit does.

          --
          "I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen
          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday May 26, @12:24AM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday May 26, @12:24AM (#1358206) Journal

            and their delusion that he and his companies can do no wrong or make any mistakes.

            Rather the alleged "fanbois" don't lose their shit just because a mistake happened. It's rockets. Things go boom. What gets missed with SpaceX is that they have a sane process for dealing with that.

            anything that Nazi piece of shit does.

            The devaluation of the Nazi term continues. Soon you won't be able to buy a cup of coffee with it.

      • (Score: 2) by quietus on Saturday May 25, @06:31AM (1 child)

        by quietus (6328) on Saturday May 25, @06:31AM (#1358129) Journal

        You're exaggerating -- that was at most a minus one on Hollywood scale.

        Sure hope they'll up their game for July Fourth.

        • (Score: 2) by Nuke on Saturday May 25, @09:11AM

          by Nuke (3162) on Saturday May 25, @09:11AM (#1358146)

          - that was at most a minus one on Hollywood scale

          The subject here is space. Minus one is pretty serious in astronomy.

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by pTamok on Monday May 27, @06:40PM

        by pTamok (3042) on Monday May 27, @06:40PM (#1358390)

        A fireball is just a very low order explosion.

        There's a significant difference between a detonation [wikipedia.org] and a deflagration [wikipedia.org]. The difference is that in a detonation, the chemical reaction moves faster than the speed of sound in the medium detonating, whereas in a deflagration, it is less than the speed of sound. This generates very different effects.

        A fireball is typically a deflagration, and does not have significant overpressure or a shock front, so is far less damaging. As ever, it is complicated.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by driverless on Saturday May 25, @08:09AM

      by driverless (4770) on Saturday May 25, @08:09AM (#1358137)

      Yup. The Nedelin catastrophe, now that was a real explosion. Or the N1 second launch, which broke windows 6km away and was heard 35km away. Those were explosions.

  • (Score: 2) by mendax on Saturday May 25, @08:45AM

    by mendax (2840) on Saturday May 25, @08:45AM (#1358142)

    No doubt some foul-mouthed words were uttered by Elon Musk today. Well, more than usual at any rate.

    --
    It's really quite a simple choice: Life, Death, or Los Angeles.
  • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Saturday May 25, @11:47AM (1 child)

    by Thexalon (636) on Saturday May 25, @11:47AM (#1358150)

    I'm not hearing comments involving loss of life, which is good, probably, but I hope everyone was well away from this testing rig.

    From another article, it does appear like residents of the area have had to deal with lots of noise and broken windows from SpaceX for a long while.

    --
    The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
    • (Score: 2) by Nuke on Saturday May 25, @11:58AM

      by Nuke (3162) on Saturday May 25, @11:58AM (#1358152)

      Not to mention the inhabitants of the nature reserve immediately adjacent to the launch area. Perhaps they will be serving turtle soup in the SpaceX canteen for the next few days.

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Nuke on Saturday May 25, @11:50AM

    by Nuke (3162) on Saturday May 25, @11:50AM (#1358151)

    Unfortunately yet another delay to Musk's program for his departure to Mars with his disciples.

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