Starship, a new spacecraft under development by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, suffered a setback when one of its prototypes exploded during an engine test in Texas, media reports say.
TechCrunch reported that SpaceX, which is vying to become the first private company to put humans into orbit, had planned to replace its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets with Starship.
The explosion occurred two days after SpaceX delayed the launch of its first rocket flight with humans aboard due to weather concerns.
That launch, now expected this weekend, will use the Falcon 9 rocket, which with years of testing has proved reliable to launch satellites and cargo into space, CNBC reported.
Earlier this week the Federal Aviation Administration cleared SpaceX to conduct suborbital flight tests of the Starship vehicle.
The website Via Satellite said SpaceX is designing Starship to take people to Earth’s orbit, the moon and Mars.
The explosion occurred, reports say, during a static fire test at 1:49 pm U.S. Central Time on Friday at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Brownsville, Texas.
In such a test, propellant is loaded into a vehicle and the engines are fully fired but the vehicle itself remains anchored to its mount. The test is designed to assess factors like pressure and temperature.
The Via Satellite site quoted Musk as saying at a March aerospace conference that Starship is a completely new spacecraft architecture.
“It needs to be completely reusable,” Musk said, according to Via Satellite. “It needs to be relaunched an hour after landing. It is like commercial aircraft. The only thing you expect to change on a regular basis is propellant. It has got to be fast.”