SpaceX blew up another spacecraft on Friday and the company says it likely won’t be the last. The second prototype for the Starship interplanetary vehicle blew to pieces during a liquid nitrogen pressure test at the company’s Boca Chica, Texas, facilities. Friday’s spectacular failure was the second in six months and CEO Elon Musk has said it’s all part of the program. “We’re now building flight design of Starship SN1, but each SN will have at least minor improvements, at least through SN20 or so of Starship V1.0,” he wrote in a tweet on Dec. 27.
Friday’s mishap occurred during a test to determine the structural integrity of the silo-like spacecraft’s pressurized fuel tanks and clearly there is some work to be done there. The main structure buckled before the whole thing launched several feet off the pad and a methane tank (filled with nitrogen for the test) the size of a house blew off, landing up to 1,000 feet away. Before the test, Musk said the nitrogen trial was a dress rehearsal for loading up the Starship with methane and liquid oxygen but the company hasn’t said what Friday’s failure will do to the test schedule. A second Starship prototype is close to completion in Boca Chica and could be on the test pad within a month.
Fail fast & fail often – the underpinnings of an Agile development process. It may seem counter-intuitive but it is how SpaceX has progressed so far, so fast.