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SpaceX's Starship prototype blows its top during Texas test

By Paul Brinkmann

Nov. 20 (UPI) -- An early prototype of SpaceX's Starship rocket blew its top during a test Wednesday at the company's construction yard in Boca Chica, Texas.

Images captured by two independent videographers from outside the plant -- LabPadre and SPadre on YouTube -- showed the top of the rocket flying into the air as a cloud of white vapor vented. Vapor and condensation engulfed the plant for several minutes before dissipating.

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SpaceX will now move toward flight design for the stainless steel rocket, company founder and CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter soon afterward.

"This had some value as a manufacturing pathfinder, but flight design is quite different," Musk tweeted.

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A company statement said there were no injuries, and said the mishap wasn't a serious setback.

"The purpose of today's test was to pressurize systems to the max, so the outcome was not completely unexpected," the statement said. "The decision had already been made to not fly this test article."

At the end of September, Musk hosted an event in front of the same rocket, saying he planned to see it in a test flight.

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"This thing is going to take off, fly to 65,000 feet, about 20 kilometers, and come back and land, in about one or two months," he said at the time.

Musk said he hoped to reach Earth orbit with a Starship prototype in about six months, with human passengers by next year. The company has plans to go to the moon and Mars, and to use Starship for planetary commercial flights.

SpaceX is building a second Starship at an industrial park in Cocoa, Fla.

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