back to article SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk

Elon Musk's SpaceX team watched a prototype rocket spectacularly burst into flames over the company's test flight area in Texas on Friday. No one was injured in the explosion, the firm said. SpaceX had been testing its Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) vehicle in McGregor, Texas. One observer captured video images of debris tumbling …

  1. Chris Gray 1
    Black Helicopters

    On YouTube

    For those that don't want to endure Javascript from a dozen advertising and tracking sites, just search for "SpaceX Explosion" on YouTube.

    1. Anomalous Cowturd
      Boffin

      Re: On YouTube

      Don't bother.

      It's wobbly hand-held mobile phone footage from miles away.

      A puff of smoke, and some white dots falling.

      It is rocket science.

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Re: On YouTube

        Try this. A little pixelated but perfectly watchable.

    2. Neil Barnes Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Gee thanks, Space.com

      For interest, here's the list of scripts that the site tries to run:

      space

      brightcove

      onswipe

      scorecardresearch

      facebook

      some random cloudfront

      bizographics

      exelator

      twitter

      intellitxt

      parsely

      servebom

      sharethis

      google-analytics

      googletagmanager

      googletagservices

      qualtrics

      akamaihd

      googleusercontent

      gstatic

      facebook

      Guess which of these I allow? Hint: none... I don't know why I bother with the interwebs.

      1. RegGuy1

        Re: Gee thanks, Space.com

        Arsebook's so cool it runs it twice?

        I use No Script -- I don't get all these other pages loading (but then, most of my Internet experience doesn't work). In that case I move on to another site. This interweb thingy is vast, so I don't have to worry about spam sites not working as there is always something else to see or do.

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Gee thanks, Space.com

        According to my doctor, my reproductive system listed a good percentage of the above at some time.

      3. Mike Flugennock
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: Gee thanks, Space.com

        Holy. Fuckin'. SHIT.

        Still, that's not half as long as some of the lists I get when I hit the "Options" menu in NoScript on a lot of other sites I visit. On a couple of sites I've visited -- I forget which, now -- the pop-up list menu in NoScript goes top-to-bottom on a 17-inch monitor and keeps scrolling.

        Your list includes a handful that I allow temporarily, in case I want to share an article on my Twitter feed, and whose permissions are revoked when I'm done.

      4. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

        Re: Gee thanks, Space.com

        "I don't know why I bother with the interwebs."

        Because all those cat videos are just so darned CUTE!

        or, um..., so I hear.

      5. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Re: Gee thanks for nothing El Reg

        Sounds like you should put the comments on the front page here and leave the journalism to whoever wants to know very little. Maybe a little black box at the bottom with the word Stories on it?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: On YouTube

      For those that don't want to endure Javascript from a dozen advertising and tracking sites, just search for "SpaceX Explosion" on YouTube.

      Decent protections and blockers prevent all that crap from having to be worried about, ya know? ;)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Pint

        Re: On YouTube

        Thank you.

      2. baseh

        Re: On YouTube

        AdBlock, Ghostery?

    4. NoneSuch

      Re: On YouTube

      Where is the usual 1080 vid from SpaceX? Held back by their spin doctors?

      C'mon Elon, pad explosions have happened since Peenemünde. Be open about the bad as much as the good. I'll have a lot more confidence in SpaceX if you did especially if you want my butt on a rocket to Mars at some point.

  2. Anonymous John

    "As is our practice, the company will be reviewing the flight record details to learn more about the performance of the vehicle prior to our next said," I wonder why nobody else has thought of doing that?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      I think the point is that this was essentially a stress test. The odds of the thing coming through in one piece were pretty slim, actually. In terms of SpaceX's continuing research, this is more of a "Hmm..." moment. They pushed it and wanted to see if it would break. Well, it broke all right. They'll definitely be looking through the test data since they'll be expecting it to tell them where they'll need to adjust next.

      1. RegGuy1

        Just a test

        Hmm, seems a bit silly for just a test. If they want to see how a bomb works they could do that on the ground. All their components will have an engineered envelope in which to work, so all they need is the data from the sensors. If that data goes outside the envelope the thing will break.

        I could have told them that.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Just a test

          I could have told them that.

          But will you be just as certain of yourself once you have passed your first year of mechanical engineering?

        2. Fatman Silver badge

          Re: Just a test

          All their components will have an engineered envelope in which to work, so all they need is the data from the sensors. If that data goes outside the envelope the thing will break.

          I could have told them that.

          Perhaps their goal was to see how far outside the envelope it can be pushed before the thing broke.

          I am fairly certain that it helps to have some idea of how much 'safety margin' you actually have in a design, as you develop it.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
            Holmes

            Re: Just a test

            Good point.

            NASA had negative safety margin but didn't know it. Then Schrödinger's O-ring materialized.

        3. cray74

          Re: Just a test

          "Hmm, seems a bit silly for just a test. If they want to see how a bomb works they could do that on the ground."

          It's hard to simulate the entire combination of aerodynamic and engine variables on the ground. There aren't a lot of wind tunnels able to accommodate 3 hot firing large rocket motors and a shaking table.

          It's worth reviewing the Apollo 6 mission to see its failures. Apollo 6 experienced severe pogo oscillations that engineers had thought eliminated - which says something about "engineered envelopes." Then the upper stage spacecraft adapter suffered structural damage as air and water in it expanded as the rocket entered vacuum, something not spotted in ground tests. Ground conditions masked another design flaw, this one in a hydrogen line to the second stage J-2 motors: liquid air built up around the hydrogen line on the ground and damped vibration, while in flight vibrations tore the line free, leading to 2 engine failures.

          And all these problems happened after the successful Apollo 4 test flight.

          "All their components will have an engineered envelope in which to work,"

          Oh, yes, there are envelopes for aerospace components. Components get initially spec'd out based on guesses that include healthy safety margins; refined in simulations (which are built on estimates and approximations); and then chiseled away to get to flight weight targets. The resulting component is thus enveloped in *some* sort of engineering numbers.

          Whether or not those numbers are representative of the component's real world performance is another matter. I've been through the process of spec'ing out a solid rocket motor. It wasn't a novel design. It was built by a veteran solid motor subcontractor; used a proven alloy for the casing; was welded in a standard fashion; and there were generous margins and knockdowns in all design elements.

          It still split its seams in hot fire testing because the "engineered envelope" didn't accommodate all real world problems. Problem 1: incomplete fusion of the welded joint, an expected issue, hence the post-weld inspections. Problem 2: x-ray and fluorescent dye inspections didn't spot the bad welds, an unexpected issue.

          You can get past all the lab tests, ground tests, and even successfully launch related hardware and still find new and surprising problems that no "engineered envelope" will encompass.

          Hence: test flights.

        4. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Just a test

          "If that data goes outside the envelope the thing will break."

          And if it breaks, a small bomb goes off to vent the propellant safely in the air instead of having it land on something and then go fooom.

      2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Quite right

        And that is why there was no film show.

        Wait.... wouldn't they have video on a destruction engineering run?

        1. phuzz Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Quite right

          "Wait.... wouldn't they have video on a destruction engineering run?"

          They've been using a drone copter to get cool footage recently. I can see why they didn't want to send that up if they were expecting an explosion.

          Also, they tend to take a few days to release footage even when they do get some, not sure why, but i suppose it's their prerogative.

  3. Elmer Phud

    Prototype rocket explodes

    Yeah and?

    Isn't that what they are supposed to do?

    1. badger31

      Re: Prototype rocket explodes

      Exactly. If it didn't explode, they would not have been pushing hard enough. How and why they rockets could explode is very valuable information.

  4. Tim Worstal

    I had that Elon Musk on the email once

    "Tim, would scandium make my rockets better?"

    "No, but it would make them more expensive".

    "Hmm, thanks....."

    1. phil dude
      Coat

      Re: I had that Elon Musk on the email once

      that's why he's IRON man...

      P.

  5. Gene Cash Silver badge

    obKSP

    Moar struts!

    At least they didn't deliver a couple Galileo navsats into the wrong orbit...

  6. Dave Bell
    Boffin

    Spaceflight with rockets is always going to be dangerous and expensive.

    Skylon

    It costs less than policitians.

    1. Weapon

      Actually, a reusable Falcon 9 will be cheaper and safer than a Skylon by a decent margin.

    2. Martin Budden
      Go

      Skylon just looks so damn cool.

  7. Steven Raith

    "Rockets are tricky …"

    Pff, it's not like it's brain surgery...

    (with apologies to, I believe, Monty Python? correct me if I'm wrong about the one-upmanship sketch)

    1. phil dude
      Boffin

      Re: "Rockets are tricky …"

      could be Mitchell & Webb play homage...?

      P.

      1. Steven Raith

        Re: "Rockets are tricky …"

        That actually sounds about right, Phil!

  8. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Pint

    REMAIN IN DESIGNATED AREA!

    "An FAA representative was present at all times."

    Okydoky, we wouldn't want to be declared terrorists due to incontinent booms and get some Waco action on our engineers' dens.

    Seriously, I hope they get the next launch listed under "Everything is going extremely well."

    1. cray74

      Re: REMAIN IN DESIGNATED AREA!

      "Okydoky, we wouldn't want to be declared terrorists due to incontinent booms and get some Waco action on our engineers' dens."

      You might be thinking of the Transportation Safety Administration, which is under the Department of Homeland Security and gets excitable about the security aspects of aerospace vehicle explosions. On the other hand, the FAA is part of the Department of Transportation and has the responsibility of certifying new aerospace vehicles as flightworthy.

  9. i like crisps
    Alien

    " HOOTS MON"

    were the Dilithium Crystals out of alignment?

  10. Paul J Turner

    The vehicle was pushed to its limits...

    And then a bit more, apparently.

    1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      Zero tolerance

      > The vehicle was pushed to its limits...

      > And then a bit more, apparently.

      Not quite. Limits is finite.

      Once you get the thing in failure to proceed mode, that is the definition of its limit. After that you start introducing controlled, artificial limits, AKA Safety Limits.

  11. Robert Masters

    Good engineering research.

    Stress testing? May as well test to destruction...

    1. Weapon

      Re: Good engineering research.

      It was a self destruct. The system in case of anomaly is programmed to self destruct like it did in the video.

  12. Winkypop Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Just one question

    Why do people insist on filming in portrait mode on a mobile device?

    Turn

    Your

    Phone

    Around

    1. F111F
      Boffin

      Re: Just one question

      Because it was going...not sideways? (though it did go in every direction there at the end)

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Just one question

      > Turn Your Phone Around

      I don't know anything about this modern tech, but wouldn't that just yield a selfie?

    3. hplasm Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Just one question

      Rockets are tall?

    4. Peter Simpson 1
      Facepalm

      Re: Just one question

      Why do people insist on filming in portrait mode on a mobile device?

      Well, in this case, because the subject matter was best shown in portrait mode. Now, had it been a train, I would agree with you..."Turn it Sideways" is usually a good idea, but not in every case!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well...

    That's what I call a "termination". Rocketry is great stuff indeed.

    I wonder if their human resources department use the same definition, though. :-(

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good on them

    The whole idea of research is, well, research. Finding limits. Discovering how and where things break so you can add strength or avoid the dangerous circumstances.

    I'd rather have it say "bang" now, in a controlled environment than later going upwards with a payload.

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