"It Felt Like An Earthquake": SpaceX Prototype Starship Blows Up In Massive Explosion Day Ahead Of Manned Launch

In a horribly spectacular failure with the added bad timing of coming almost exactly 24 hours ahead of SpaceX and NASA's rescheduled attempt to make history by launching two astronauts into Earth's orbit as part of work on the Commercial Crew program, set for 3:22 pm ET Saturday weather permitting, the Raptor engine in SpaceX's Starship SN4 prototype blew up on its test stand in Boca Chica, Texas.

“SpaceX just experienced the biggest explosion yet at its Texas site, where it’s testing prototypes for a Mars rocket,” The Atlantic's Marina Koren reported Friday afternoon.

"A resident who lives nearby — just 2 miles away — said it felt like an earthquake," she added. Koren noted that at this point it doesn't appear anyone in the surrounding community was hurt in the massive blast which shook the area for miles. 

The explosion, which involved a bright fireball ripping high into the air with rocket debris flying, occurred about two minutes after the engine test fire run had been completed.

It happened at 1:49 central time, and set off a flurry of commentary over the safety of tomorrow's launch with humans carried to space

The test at first appeared successful but then it ruptured in a spectacular fiery explosion.

TechCrunch brings us some of the following details of the prototype explosion as follows

This was a test in the development of Starship, a new spacecraft that SpaceX has been developing in Boca Chica. Eventually, the company hopes to use it to replace its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rocket, but Starship is still very early in its development phase, whereas those vehicles are flight-proven, multiple times over.

SpaceX had just secured FAA approval to fly its Starship prototype for short, suborbital test flights. The goal was to fly this SN4 prototype for short distances following static fire testing, but that clearly won’t be possible now, as the vehicle appears to have been completely destroyed in the explosion following Friday’s test...

Prior stress tests of Starship prototypes have ended in similar disaster as well, but this one comes at a moment national attention has been glued to the NASA-SpaceX partnership given the manned Crew Dragon launch Saturday, though weather is still not looking ideal at this point.

Though a prototype and not the same rocket that will be used tomorrow, it can't be at all comforting to be a SpaceX/NASA astronaut scheduled for lift off tomorrow, as many have already observed. 

It no doubt takes the anxiety over tomorrow's launch to a different kind of level.

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Post-explosion live feed: