Year 2019 has not been so nice to SpaceX so far. In April, the company lost one of its new ones Crew Dragon capsules when an explosion occurred during a static test on the vehicle under test during flight. Earlier this week, the company revealed that they have identified the cause of the explosion, saying it was due to nitrogen oxide leakage, which happened just before the last test.
And now, just a few days later, another accident happened, this time with a Starcompear test vehicle. Once again a fire occurred shortly after the vehicle had tested the engine; Fortunately, it did not cause any injuries. However, Starhopper seems to have come through the fire completely unscathed, although it may cause a slight delay in planned vehicle hops testing.
It all started in the evening on Tuesday, July 16, at the start of the company in southern Texas in Boca Chica, Texas. While the crews have tested the Raptor prototype, a fire suddenly occurred. About four minutes later the second small explosion swallowed the test model in flames for a few seconds. The crew quickly quenched the flames, but the incident caused great concern.
Namely, he was afraid that this incident could postpone the inaugural flight Stellar vehicle and Super heavy missile (also known as BFR). This super heavy launch system is the Musk's proposed means of sending crews and cargoes on low Earth orbit (LEO), Moon, and Mars. The Raptor engine is essential to this plan, as the BFR design requires 31 Raptors on Super heavy and 7 on Stellar,
The Starhopper Test Drive is equipped with a Raptor engine and is set to perform a series of "hop" tests over the coming weeks and months. Like the SpaceX hops tests using the Grasshopper, it will be that the car will light up its engine, fly at ever higher altitudes, move for a short time and then use the engine again, to make a controlled descent on the ground. ,
These tests will assess the ability of the engine to send the BFR system (not to mention heavy loads and crews) into space and then land again, thus fulfilling Musk's vision for a reusable system. Although it seems that no lasting damage is caused, it seems unlikely at this time Starhopper will be able to perform his first hops test this week as originally planned.
This is in line with local reports saying there are no more road closures around the company's site at this time. This most likely means that crews on the site will take this time to check the engine and the test vehicle to determine the cause of the fireball. Up to now, the big fireball was due to the ignition of a large methane hole that followed soon after Raptour's shutdown.
Ironically, this incident serves to highlight the effectiveness of the Stellar design. It has already been found that by making stainless steel over carbon composites, the spacecraft will be particularly heat resistant. If Starhopper were made of any other material, the fiery ball would probably result in engine damage and serious damage.
Ultimately, the engine test is considered to be successful because (in addition to being not caused by damage) it has also led to vital data. And if Musc's last comments on the subject are some indication, SpaceX can shoot for the moon earlier than we think. As stated in an interview on July 12 with Time:
Well, it sounds pretty crazy, but I think we can land on the moon in less than two years. Of course, with a non-wagon, I believe we can land on the Moon in two years. Then maybe in a year or two we can send a crew. I'd say four years outside.
There is currently no word on when the hops test will be carried out, but if there is no engine failure, it is unlikely that the observers at Boca Chika's test center will wait to see it. As always, things may not happen in line with Musk's optimistic deadlines, but they happen.
Now we only have to wait and see who first comes to the moon. Will SpaceX or the NASA Artemis project be?
Additional Information: The Verge, Teslarati, Time