Recently, SpaceX performed its third static fire test on its Starship SN8 prototype. The test saw the rocket fueled as if it were about to launch, and then the engines were fired for a few seconds while the spacecraft remains attached to the ground. While the other two static fire tests have gone as planned, there were issues this time.
Reports indicate that as the engines fired, material could be seen dripping from the base of the prototype, which isn’t normal for the test and indicated a problem. Fortunately for SpaceX, the spacecraft wasn’t lost. CEO Elon Musk confirmed that there were issues with the test.
Via Twitter, Musk noted that the vehicle lost pneumatics. He also confirmed that at the time, the team had no idea why the issue had occurred. Musk did note that the liquid oxygen header tank pressure was rising, and there was a potential the spacecraft could explode. However, Musk hoped that a burst disc would relieve the pressure.
Musk later tweeted that the burst disc worked as intended, and the vehicle appeared to be okay. In a later tweet, he noted that at least one engine on the SN8 prototype would need to be replaced. Musk also addressed sparks seen by some observers during the test.
He said that the sparks were likely due to a melted engine pre-burner or fuel hot gas manifold. He suggested that whatever caused the pneumatics loss was the source of the sparks. He did note that this issue needed to be worked on at the design level. Eventually, Starship will be the next-generation rocket that will carry supplies and crew to the moon and possibly Mars. SN8 is the first prototype to feature a trio of Raptor engines. All previous prototypes had only a single-engine.