SpaceX pushed a massive tank for its latest spacecraft prototype beyond its limits on Tuesday (June 23) in an intentionally explosive test in South Texas.
The Starship SN7 prototype tank ruptured during a pressure test at SpaceX’s Boca Chica testing ground, the second in just over a week for the spacecraft component. But where a test on June 15 resulted in a leak, Tuesday’s test was a little more dramatic.
Video cameras from South Padre Island tourism site Spadre.com and NASASpaceflight.com watched SpaceX fill the tank with supercooled liquid nitrogen to test its ability to retain supercooled propellant during an actual launch. The tank finally reached its limit and exploded, throwing clouds of billowing white nitrogen.
A close-up of NASASpaceflight.com on Twitter, captured by the observer for Starship Mary (also known as BocaChicaGal), shows the moment when the tank broke. The tank explodes and collapses, sinking into the nitrogen columns.
RIP SN7 test tank. Thanks for the data! Live stream of Mary (@BocaChicaGal)! Https: //t.co/wlq79ZvdkL pic.twitter.com/gCYRkpDMW723 June 2020
SpaceX has been conducting a series of tests in Boca Chica to refine its designs for the stainless steel spacecraft, which the company intends to use for eventual flights to Mars and moon landings. Last month, NASA chose Starship as one of three commercial lunar landing designs that could take agency agency Artemis astronauts to the moon.
Some of SpaceX’s spacecraft tests have been successful, such as a series of tests of ground rocket engines and the brief 2019 flight of a prototype of the first spacecraft called Starhopper. Others, not so much.
On May 29, SpaceX’s SN4 Starship prototype exploded shortly after completing a test of its Raptor rocket engine.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the company will learn from each Starship test to improve future designs. Last week’s test of the SN7 Starship tank, which leaked but did not explode, was a promising sign, Musk said June 15. The company is changing from 301 stainless steel to 304L, he said.
“The tank did not explode, but leaked at 7.6 bar. This is a good result and supports the idea of 304L stainless steel. [steel] be better than 301, “Musk wrote on Twitter, adding that the tank would eventually be used in a destructive test.” We are developing our own alloy to take this even further. Leakage before the explosion is highly desirable. “
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