The first full-scale prototype of SpaceX Starship, the Starship Mk1, has experienced a failure during pressure systems testing on November 20, 2019. 

While carrying out a test by filling the fuel tanks of the Mk1 prototype, the pressure became too high, and the top of the tanks exploded, ejected at more than a hundred meters of altitude.

SpaceX said the incident was not a serious setback and the burst of the prototype was “not completely unexpected”. “The purpose of today’s test was to pressurize systems to the max, so the outcome was not completely unexpected,” is written in SpaceX statement. “There were no injuries, nor is this a serious setback.” 

Starship Mk1 was publicly revealed in September 2019. At the time, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that the company planned to do a 20km flight with the prototype in one to two months’ time. 

“Mk1 served as a valuable manufacturing pathfinder but flight design is quite different,” SpaceX statement reads. “The decision had already been made to not fly this test article and the team is focused on the Mk3 builds, which are designed for orbit.” 

The company planned to follow the 20 km flight with a flight all the way to orbit, using the full system, which includes a booster and a spaceship. SpaceX targets the first Starship flight to orbit in 2020. 

However, it was not the Mk1 that was intended to be the vehicle used for the Starship maiden orbital flight. “Most likely, we will not go to orbit with Mk1,” Musk revealed speaking at an event in September 2019. “We will go to orbit with Mk3, which we will start building [...] in about a month.”

SpaceX is developing the Starship transportation system to eventually carry passengers and cargo to destinations in space ranging from Earth orbit to Mars “and beyond”.