KEY POINTS

  • SpaceX conducted a pressure test for Starship's SN7 tank
  • The tank exploded during the pressure test
  • Videos show how the SN7 tank exploded

Videos taken during SpaceX’s latest Starship test revealed the powerful explosion of the prototype spacecraft’s fuel tank. The component was deliberately destroyed by the company in order to test its limits.

On June 23, SpaceX headed to its launch facility in Boca Chica, South Texas, to carry out a pressure test for the SN7 tank of Starship. This spacecraft is currently being designed by the company as a reusable heavy launch vehicle that’s capable of transporting passengers to deep space locations.

As part of the pressure test, SpaceX filled the tank with super-chilled liquid nitrogen and increased the pressure applied to the component. The purpose of the test was to determine the pressure limits of the tank. The company also wanted to analyze the tank’s ability to hold propellant during an actual launch event.

A couple of hours after the test officially started, the SN7 tank began to show signs of damage. Eventually, the bottom portion of the tank ruptured, causing the entire component to explode and fill the surrounding area with white-colored clouds.

In the unedited video captured by NASA Spaceflight and shared on YouTube, the tank can be seen as it slowly degrades before finally exploding. On the other hand, a close-up live stream video captured by Twitter user BocaChicaGal captured the exact moment the tank exploded.

SpaceX noted that it is using the pressure tests to improve the overall design of Starship’s tank. By determining the component’s limits, the company is able to improve the design of the tank and make it more efficient.

For instance, after carrying out another test for Starship’s SN7 tank earlier this month, SpaceX founder Elon Musk noted that they decided to use 304L stainless steel instead of 301 for the tank. Although the tank didn’t explode during the test, it still leaked.

“Tank didn't burst, but leaked at 7.6 bar. This is a good result & supports idea of 304L stainless [steel] being better than 301,” Musk said in a statement. “We're developing our own alloy to take this even further. Leak before burst is highly desirable.”

Starship passenger rocket
Elon Musk before a computer generated illustration of Starship, the new crewed rocket from SpaceX. The company has said it will use this rocket to transport passengers on ultra-long flights on Earth. PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images
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