Today at approximately 3:27 PM CST, an “anomaly” occurred with the SpaceX Starship MK1*, causing massive failure. This happened after a full pressure test on the evening of November 18, during another test this afternoon at SpaceX facilities near Boca Chica, South Texas. Thanks to the efforts of several intrepid live video documentarians, we can see the rapid depressurization and explosion frame-by-frame. NOTE: To be EXTRA CLEAR – this was a prototype unit undergoing pressure testing. Testing is done to avoid situations like these during actual live launches.
UPDATE: SpaceX delivered a statement to the press in the hours after the event. “The purpose of today’s test was to pressurize systems to the max,” said a SpaceX representative. “So the outcome was not completely unexpected.” The decision to move beyond the Mark 1 (Mk1 mentioned throughout this article) was already made, according to a SpaceX statement. “The decision had already been made to not fly this test article and the team is focused on the Mk3 builds, which are designed for orbit.”
The rest of the article continues as originally written in the minutes and hours after the initial incident: First you’ll see a photo from Mary, aka BocaChicaGal, captured at around 2PM Central Time today, November 20, 2019. Mary also has a set of photos from the events before and after the explosion, near the site. Mary also put the situation very plainly, saying “Starship Mk1 has suffered some damage and this is why testing is so necessary.
You’ll also want to check in with the folks at SPadreIsle who’ve been able to track activities nearby. Below you’ll see a clip of the explosion from afar.
Above you’ll see part of the clip from the live feed at YouTube’s LabPadre. This is where the explosion happens. According to SPadre (linked above), “I was washing my truck and heard a loud boom, so bummed. Hope everyone is ok, just talked to Mary she’s ok.” That’s Mary as in BocaChicaGal. It would appear that nobody was hurt in the explosion, including those documenting the site above.
UPDATE: Again from BocaChicaGal, we’ve got a very clear video here of the aftermath of the Mk1 failure. Below you’ll see some words from ErdayAstronaut, followed by a reply from Elon Musk. It would appear that they’ll move from Mk1 to Mk3 at this point.
This was some truly unexpected, unscheduled massive depressurization, and the situation is still developing – stay tuned!
UPDATE: If we look at videos of the explosion, we see that the bulkhead was airborne for approximately 12 seconds. Since the explosion happened starting from the surface of the earth, gravitational acceleration is 9.8m/s^2 (meters per second, squared). The bulkhead reached its peak height approximately halfway through its airborne journey.
We’re oversimplifying here a little since the bulkhead didn’t land at the same point at which it took off. It started at the top of the craft, but ended on the ground. So if we take the time (6 seconds upward), we have a speed around 60m/s (or so), and a peak height around 176-180 meters.
Credit goes to Scott Manley for quick calculations – he’s also got some insight on what blew off in the explosion, here. That’s Manley as @DJSnM on Twitter above.