SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says there was only minor damage to its Starship rocket booster in an explosion at its Boca Chica, Texas, facility on Monday. The base of the rocket was engulfed in flame and smoke during an engine test. “Damage is minor, but booster will be transferred back to the high bay for inspections, returning to the launch stand probably next week,” Musk said in an email to Reuters.

The testing is being done in preparation for the first launch of the entire system, which uses 33 engines in a rocket that soars about 400 feet tall. The system is designed to take crewed vessels to deep space, including trips to Mars. The FAA says it’s in contact with SpaceX but there’s not much it can do because the massive rocket wasn’t being launched, which is when its jurisdiction kicks in.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. As a retired A&P I’d love to know the criteria used for determining “minor damage” as a result of this test or what constitutes “major damage”, as well.

  2. “Minor damage” = “maybe reusable, maybe scrap but we have all the pieces”.
    “Major damage” = RUD. Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly. (it exploded)

  3. “ The FAA says it’s in contact with SpaceX but there’s not much it can do because the massive rocket wasn’t being launched”

    Do? Do about what? What is the “do” that needs done?

    • Shakedown, obstruct, ridicule …… pick one.
      That was an impressive fuel/oxidizer detonation. There is a reason the shuttle had sparklers under the engines to ignite any fuel early before it could accumulate.
      Any structure with significant trapped air volume got a good punch from the overpressure.
      As for the flames, that launch facility is going to get a much worse torching during launch so it better be made to handle it.

  4. ‘The Mouth’ fails again.

    As for FAA, I thought their concern was risk of damage to others or their property. Is Musk’s TX facility separated from other people? (Recall pad at Cape Canaveral is not far enough away from another launch pad.) Reuter’s says ‘sending a shock wave miles across the South Texas facility.

    • I’m assuming you mean Elon Musk as ‘The Mouth’.
      Paypal, Tesla, Spacex reusable boosters ….
      Which fail are you talking about?

      • Musk did not start PayPak and was only involved briefly, Rocket failures, Tesla is questionable IMO – many accidents caused by inability of software to do basic things (but perhaps lower rate than human drivers) in expensive subsidized cars, ….. can’t keep his mouth shut to stay out of hot water.

      • Hyperloop, solar roof tiles, Starlink… there’s actually quite a few, that were just ridiculous ideas, that weren’t at all original, and failed miserably. You should check out a YouTube channel called Thunderfoot. The guys a research something or other, I forgot what exactly, but he has several phds, and he literally debunks all of these crazy ideas that Musk has tried, and explains in detail why they were doomed to failure. It’s pretty good.

        • He debunks all kinds of crap technology, most of it blatant scams. Unfortunately Elon Musk is the topic of more than a couple of his videos, because some of Musks ideas are so ridiculous, they have to be bs.

  5. Musk is a mega maniacal grifter and a narcissist.

    I hate Tesla with a deep dark hate. I’m opposed to EVs in general but Tesla/Tesla fanboys really butter my toast.

    As for Space Ex I’ll appreciate them much more when Musk if finally gone.

    • Isn’t that extreme language ? Your post is mostly name calling and smearing. Tesla and Space X are both major achievements, and Musk deserves credit. Why do you hate EVs? Isn’t that rather silly? If you don’t like them, don’t buy one.

  6. Wow, sure a lot of Musk haters out there! He’s not my favorite guy, but he is basically a typical eccentric inventor that has had some pretty far out ideas. Nicola Tesla pretty much invented the technology that made alternating current practical, but he wanted to “transmit” power to your house through the air without wires, and he fell in love with a pigeon. Thomas Edison was a bully that stole other people’s inventions and ran newspaper ads spreading lies about his competition (Westinghouse). Henry Ford was a ruthless businessman that sold his customers what he wanted, not what they wanted. He routinely laid off hundreds of employees when a project didn’t work out.

    Right now, Tesla is selling more cars than most major car makers. And, how many million vehicles have been recalled by the majors for defects in everything from brakes to airbags in the past decade? Oh, and remember Chrysler and GM begging for bailouts from the government to avoid bankruptcy? As for SpaceX, they are doing as well as their NASA SLS booster competition who can’t seem to figure out how to make a non-reusable booster that costs over 5 times as much even work period. Musk’s mouth may be his worst enemy, but it seems that he fits in pretty well with other “Titans of industry” that we all know and love.

    • Hard to believe he is selling more cars than ‘most major car makers’.

      Subsidies are helping of course.

      • If you’re referring to the $7,500 rebate that sales from virtually every other manufacturer for EXCEPT Tesla (and GM) – then yes, I’m sure subsidies are helping.

        Helping his competition, that is…

        • Elaborate!

          There are limits on number of cars from each manufacturer to qualify for rebate, I read that Tesla and GM have both passed that limit.

          Certainly Musk/Tesla benefitted greatly from rebates early in his production, while other makers did not.

          Musk was enjoying the sales benefit of rebates that came out of the pockets of other manufacturers because they weren’t producing enough EVs to satisfy gummint.

          Note that credits were for plug-in vehicles, which hybrids were not for several years but Teslas by definition have to be.

          Bizarre is California allowing EVs to use HOV lanes, which were set up to reduce number of vehicles on freeways by by motivating multiple occupancy.

          • Yes, Tesla benefitted early on the rebates – because they were actually selling vehicles. Their rebates ran out, but the Rest of the World now has that advantage over Tesla. Each company is given the same number of rebates – all they have to do is to produce a vehicle that the public will buy.

            They’re catching up.

            As for HOV lanes, the intent was to reduce smog. Reducing vehicle count by car pooling is one way, riding a motorcycle is another – which is why single bike riders can use the HOV lanes. EVs also further that goal, hence their exception.

    • I don’t remember John Allision having a flapping around moth like Musk.

      John built the renowned BBandT into a far larger bank, honestly.