Recently, SpaceX performed its third steady-fire test on its Starship SN8 prototype. The test saw the missile refueling as if it was about to launch, then the engines fired for a few seconds while the spacecraft remained attached to the ground. While the other two steady fire tests went as planned, this time there were problems.
Reports indicate that during the engines’ firing, material could be seen dripping from the base of the prototype, which is abnormal for testing and indicates a problem. Fortunately for SpaceX, the spacecraft was not lost. CEO Elon Musk confirmed there were problems with testing.
Via Twitter, Musk noted that the car lost air pressure. He also emphasized that at the time, the team had no idea why the problem had occurred. Musk noticed that the pressure of the liquid oxygen head tank was rising, and there was a possibility that the spacecraft would explode. However, Musk was hopeful that the explosive tablet would relieve pressure.
Musk later tweeted that the blast disc was working as intended, and the car appeared fine. In a subsequent tweet, he indicated that at least one engine on the SN8 prototype had to be replaced. Musk also dealt with sparks that some observers saw during the test.
He said the sparks were most likely due to melting of the pre-engine or hot gas manifold. He indicated that the source of the sparks was the cause of the loss. It has been noted that this issue needs to be worked out at a design level. Ultimately, the Starship will be the next generation rocket that will bring supplies and crew to the moon and possibly Mars. The SN8 is the first prototype to feature a triple-engined Raptor. All previous models had only one engine.