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SpaceX blew up a Starship tank… on purpose!

Published Sep 24th, 2020 7:00PM EDT
starship explosion
Image: Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP

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  • SpaceX tested the pressure capacity of one of its starship tanks the best way possible: by filling it up until it exploded.
  • The planned explosion and failure helped SpaceX engineers better understand the limits of the hardware as they plan the next version.
  • SpaceX’s Starship will eventually travel to Mars if everything works out as planned.

News of a SpaceX machine exploding isn’t typically good news. It’s happened in the past, and most of the time it was unexpected and accidental. Well, the company just blew up one of its Starship tanks, but this time it did so on purpose.

As reports, SpaceX was using the tank for a pressure test. The test was designed to determine the maximum pressure the tank could withstand. The only way to collect that kind of data is by blowing it up, so that’s exactly what SpaceX engineers did. Video of the detonation was posted on YouTube, and it’s quite a sight.

As you can see in the video, posted by NASASpaceflight, the tank was being pressurized at the testing facility. Things went exactly as planned, and the tank ultimately ruptured and “failed.” The video shows off the event in slow motion, so give it a watch:

NASASpaceflight provides the following description for context:

Starship Test Tank SN7.1 was pressurized to bursting point – on purpose – to aid data into the construction of future Starships made from 304L Steel Alloy.

SpaceX’s Starship program is the company’s forward-looking plan for a spacecraft capable of traveling to other planets and, eventually, even other star systems. It sounds like a pipe dream right now (and to be honest, it kind of is), but you have to start somewhere, and if mankind is truly going to explore the cosmos it’s going to need spacecraft capable of doing just that.

Of course, before SpaceX can plan for missions to the Moon, Mars, or beyond, it needs to actually launch a Starship into space. It has yet to do that, but it’s making significant progress with its various prototypes. There’s really no firm timeline for when Starship will carry out its first real mission, and that’s not surprising since the company is still in the prototype phase, but it’s clear that SpaceX is betting a lot on the program and the results should be pretty impressive.

Of course, it helps that boss Elon Musk still firmly believes that traveling to (and colonizing) Mars is an inevitable phase of humanity’s future. To get there, we’ll need a big ship with a lot of power. SpaceX’s Starship could be that ship, and if Musk has his wish, he might just die on the Red Planet. Is it a weird thing to wish for? Sure, but we’ve all got our quirks.