During a ground test of the Super Heavy Booster 7, which is to be used in the spacecraft SpaceX Starship, an incident occurred that led to an explosion. After the start of the test, the exact nature and objectives of which were not announced, the superheavy accelerator equipped with 33 Raptor engines began to emit condensed water vapor, which was followed by a powerful explosion.
— Chris Bergin – NSF (@NASASpaceflight) July 11, 2022
The reasons for the incident are still unknown, as well as its consequences. From the looks of Super Heavy Booster 7, it appears that the explosion did not cause significant damage to the booster.
“Yeah, actually not good. Team is assessing the damage” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk commented the incident on Twitter.
Rockets that use cryogenic fuel/oxidant combinations such as liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen store these gases in insulated containers. Fuel is stored at a temperature of more than 100 degrees below zero, so there is a risk of its vaporization and explosion when the temperature increases. This was pointed out by Musk himself in another comment on Twitter:
“Cryogenic fuel is an added challenge, as it evaporates to create fuel-air explosion risk in a partially oxygen atmosphere like Earth.”
Depending on the damage sustained by Super Heavy Booster 7, this could lead to an adjustment to SpaceX’s plans to launch Starship into orbit as early as this year.