This week, SpaceX workers in South Texas loaded the third full-scale Starship prototype—SN3—onto a test stand at the company's Boca Chica launch site. On Wednesday night, they pressure-tested the vehicle at ambient temperature with nitrogen, and SN3 performed fine.
On Thursday night SpaceX began cryo-testing the vehicle, which means it was loaded again with nitrogen, but this time it was chilled to flight-like temperatures and put under flight-like pressures. Unfortunately, a little after 2am local time, SN3 failed and began to collapse on top of itself. It appeared as if the vehicle may have lost pressurization and become top-heavy.
Shortly after the failure, SpaceX's founder and chief engineer, Elon Musk, said on Twitter, "We will see what data review says in the morning, but this may have been a test configuration mistake." A testing issue would be good in the sense that it means the vehicle itself performed well, and the problem can be more easily addressed.
This is the third time a Starship has failed during these proof tests that precede engine tests and, potentially flight tests. Multiple sources indicated that had these preliminary tests succeeded, SN3 would have attempted a 150-meter flight test as early as next Tuesday.
Here's a recap of SpaceX's efforts to test full-size Starships to date:
- Starship Mk1: Construction began in December, 2018. Failed during pressure test in November, 2019.
- Starship SN1: Construction began in October, 2019. Failed during a pressure test in March, 2020.
- Starship SN2: Construction began in Feb., 2020. After SN1 failure, was converted into a test bed for thrust puck at base of rocket. Passed test on March 8, and was retired.
- Starship SN3: Construction began in March, 2020. Cryogenic test failure on April 3.
- Starship SN4: Construction began in March, 2020. Testing begins later this month?
This failure has to be a disappointment in that the prototype rocket failed for a third time before getting to Raptor engine tests. And after the SN1 failure, Read More – Source