On Friday 5/29, SpaceX prepared its latest iteration of the Starship prototype vehicle, known as Serial No. 4, or SN4, for a static fire test in Texas. The Raptor engine appeared to fire nominally for a couple of seconds at 1:47pm local time and then shut down as planned.
However, about one minute after engine shutdown there was some kind of uncontrolled gaseous leak, and one minute later the vehicle exploded almost instantaneously—a truly rapid Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly.
Although undesirable, these failures are a byproduct of an iterative design program that builds fast, tests, finds failures, and fixes them. The company has SN5 already waiting in the wings, as that prototype is nearing completion at SpaceX’s rocket factory beneath tents in South Texas.