A SpaceX prototype rocket caught fire during a key test at the company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The rocket, using one of SpaceX’s next-generation “Raptor” rocket engines, burst into flames four minutes after SpaceX briefly ignited the engine. The rocket was engulfed in fire for a few seconds before it was extinguished. It is unclear if any damage was done to the stainless steel rocket.
The prototype rocket, known as “Starhopper,” is the early version of the company’s Starship rocket. Starhopper is built to fly short, low altitude flights to provide SpaceX’s engineers with data for improving the design. SpaceX is currently building multiple versions of the rocket at the company’s test facilities in Boca Chica and Cape Canaveral, Florida.
SpaceX completed the first significant test of the prototype successfully in April. However, this incident may now postpone the first big flight of the vehicle. The test vehicle was set to perform a series of tests in the weeks and months ahead, mainly to test the vehicle’s capability to launch from and land on solid surfaces.
The Starship is a massive spacecraft the company is developing to take people and cargo into deep space. It will ultimately be used for transporting up to 100 people to destinations off planet, including the moon and Mars. Starship is intended to be a fully reusable rocket system, which will be a challenge for its developers. SpaceX’s current “Falcon” series of rockets are partially reusable, with the first stage and the nose cone now recoverable.
Investors have been impressed with SpaceX’s progress on its technology. So far this year, SpaceX has sought more than $1.3 billion across three funding rounds and has raised more than $1 billion. The company currently has a market valuation of more than $33.3 billion.