SpaceX’s Starhopper was engulfed in a fireball shortly after a static fire ignition of its Raptor engine, almost certainly delaying the low-fidelity Starship prototype and testbed’s first untethered flight.
With any luck, Raptor, Starhopper, and SpaceX’s spartan Boca Chica facilities have escaped relatively unharmed. Regardless, even if Raptor’s static fire was technically successful, some repairs will likely be necessary and the off-nominal behavior that occurred after the ignition test will have to be dealt with and understood to prevent such behavior during future Starhopper operations.
Aside from the anomalous behavior after the test, Starhopper’s Raptor static fire looked downright brutal from local livestreams hosted by LabPadre and several other onlookers.
Due to the inherently low quality of video captured through thousands of feet of thick, humid Texas air, it’s almost impossible to make specific details out. However, shortly after the static fire ignition and shutdown, some viewers believe that there was fire visible at one or several points on Starhopper, although what looks like fire could easily be a simple reflection of the active flare stack just a few hundred feet away.
By all appearances, the anomaly looks much worse than it was. More likely than not, some sort of leak began during or after Raptor’s static fire test, creating a cloud of gaseous oxygen and methane that was eventually ignited by either the latent heat of Raptor components or a fire somewhere on or around the vehicle. What’s important is that Starhopper appears to be fully intact after the incident, meaning that SpaceX should still be able to detank and safe the vehicle and analyze it to figure out what went wrong. Watch live as the rocket is safed and technicians (hopefully) begin to arrive on-site to begin inspections.
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