Recently, SpaceX conducted its third static fire test on its starship SN8 prototype. The test saw the rocket as fuel as it was about to launch, and then the engines fired for a few seconds while the spacecraft was attached to the ground. While the other two static fire tests are planned, there were issues this time.
Reports indicate that as the engines have been fired, the material can be seen dripping from the prototype base, which is not normal for testing and indicates a problem. Fortunately for SpaceX, the spacecraft was not lost. CEO Elon Musk confirmed that there were issues with the test.
Through Twitter, Musk mentioned that the vehicle lost the pneumatic. He also confirmed that at the time, the team did not know why the issue had occurred. Musk noted that the liquid oxygen header tank pressure was increasing, and there was a possibility that the spacecraft might explode. However, Musk hoped that a burst disc would relieve pressure.
Musk later tweeted that the ripped disc worked as intended, and the vehicle appeared to be fine. In a subsequent tweet, he stated that at least one engine would need to be replaced on the SN8 prototype. Musk also addressed the sparks observed by some observers during the trial.
He said the sparks were likely due to a former engine burner or fuel hot gas manifold. He suggested that whatever was the cause of the pneumatic loss was the source of the sparks. He noted that the issue needed to be worked out at the design level. Ultimately, the starship will be the next generation rocket that will carry supplies and crew to the moon and possibly Mars. The SNT8 is the first prototype to feature a trio of Raptor engines. All previous prototypes had only one engine.