Two months ago, Elon Musk unveiled SpaceX’s first prototype of its Mars-colonizing spacecraft, a 165-foot-tall, all-stainless-steel space vessel called the Starship Mk1, at the company’s test site in Boca Chica, Texas, proudly calling it “the most inspiring thing I’ve ever seen.”
The Mk1 prototype was meant to be the first of many to help SpaceX get the Starship system off the ground (to reach Earth’s orbit) within six months, with crewed missions possibly starting as soon as next year. But the project hit a setback on Wednesday, when the Mk1 blew its top off during a pressure test in Boca Chica, producing a giant cloud of white vapor that lasted for minutes.
The incident was caught on camera by several spectators watching the test from afar.
SpaceX said the failure wasn’t “completely unexpected,” because the purpose of Wednesday’s test was to “pressurise systems to the max. There were no injuries, nor is this a serious setback,” the company said in a statement.
On Twitter, SpaceX fans have been sending condolences and, in some cases, technical advice, to Musk. Responding to one rocket enthusiast who suggested SpaceX move onto the next generations of Starship prototypes, instead of trying to repair the damaged Mk1, the SpaceX CEO wrote, “Absolutely, but to move to Mk3 design [third-generation prototype]. This had some value as a manufacturing pathfinder, but flight design is quite different.”
SpaceX is already in the process of building the Starship Mk2, for which suborbital testing could begin by the end of the year, and is about to start the manufacturing process for Mk3, which is designed to fly to Earth’s orbit.