SpaceX recently performed its third static fire test on its Starship SN8 prototype. The test saw the rocket powered as if it were about to launch, so the engines were turned on for a few seconds while the spacecraft remained attached to the ground. While the other two static fire tests went as planned, there were problems this time around.
Reports indicate that when the engines fired, it was possible to see material dripping from the base of the prototype, which is not normal for testing and indicated a problem. Fortunately for SpaceX, the spacecraft was not lost. CEO Elon Musk confirmed there were problems with the test.
Via Twitter, Musk noticed that the vehicle lost its pneumatics. He also confirmed that at the time the team had no idea why the problem occurred. Musk noted that the pressure of the liquid oxygen tank was increasing and that there was a possibility that the spacecraft could explode. However, Musk hoped a broken record would relieve the pressure.
Musk later tweeted that the popped disc was working as expected and the vehicle appeared to be fine. In a later tweet, he noted that at least one engine on the SN8 prototype needed to be replaced. Musk also dealt with the sparks seen by some observers during the test.
He said the sparks were likely due to a melted engine pre-burner or hot gas manifold. He suggested that whatever caused the pneumatic leak was the source of the sparks. He noted that this problem needed to be solved at the design level. Ultimately, Starship will be the next generation rocket that will transport supplies and crew to the Moon and possibly Mars. SN8 is the first prototype to feature a trio of Raptor engines. All previous prototypes had only a single engine.