As the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of one of man's greatest achievements that putting man on the moon, Elon Musk's space company SpaceX is busy preparing for the next big leap: putting a man on Mars.
To this end, the california-based aerospace company conducted a static ignition test of StarHopper, a starship beta prototype, in south Texas on the evening of July 17.The test lasted about five seconds and appeared to be a success, although a bright orange flame later appeared to engulve the ship.
After a successful static ignition test, StarHopper bursted into flames, forming a huge fireball.It's not clear what caused the prototype to burst into flames, or whether it was seriously damaged, or even any apparent damage has yet to be confirmed.
StarHopper is a beta prototype of the Starship SpaceX is developing to test them in real-world environments and even fly short flights called Hops.StarHopper is being assembled and operated at SpaceX's facility in boca chica, Texas.
The large, shiny craft looks a bit like a toy, but it's actually a functioning rocket, and it's scheduled to test a tethered hover this week at a low altitude of about 20 meters, a step beyond the range rover bound flight it's already completed.But last night's engine test appeared to go awry.
Static ignition starts and stops, but flames continue to burn around the base of the engine, as several fans in the SpaceX community have captured from the scene.A stream of liquid (probably water) is directed at it, and the whole rocket looks as if it has been ignited, creating an impressive fireball, which is reignited a few seconds later.
It's not clear how the fireball came about or whether it was part of the SpaceX test.To be sure, this is not the old test ignition method, and in general, no one wants a rocket to catch fire, even if it is highly heat-resistant.
Some speculate that a fuel dump may have occurred after tests produced lighter than air steam, which rose and surrounded the rocket.Water jets can cause small fires to ignite steam and create fireballs.