Elon Musk’s prediction of multiple failures of SpaceX’s Starship program came true again on Thursday with a different kind of utter destruction. The SN3 prototype of the silo-like vehicle that is purported to be the future of interplanetary space travel this time appeared to implode before collapsing in a heap of twisted stainless steel. The massive cylinder was undergoing a critical pressure test of the fuel tanks using supercooled nitrogen. It appears a leak occurred and that caused the stubby structure to collapse before a major breach ended its role as a prototype.
Musk was a little less jovial about this failure compared to previous mishaps perhaps since SN3 incorporated lessons allegedly learned from the equally spectacular destruction of its two predecessors. “We will see what data review says in the morning, but this may have been a test configuration mistake,” Musk said in a tweet late early Friday. Had SN3 passed the cryogenic test, the plan was to static fire the engine and follow that with another rocket-powered hover flight. Instead, the construction of SN4 will start immediately.