(CNBC) – SpaceX is facing a bit of a setback in the development of its Martian rocket prototype, after high winds blew over the top half of the vehicle.
CEO Elon Musk said in a tweet Wednesday that winds of 50 miles per hour “broke the mooring blocks late last night” and blew over the rocket’s “fairing” – the large nosecone at the top of the rocket. The damage “will take a few weeks to repair,” Musk added.
The rocket represents the test iteration of Starship, which SpaceX is building to transport humans and cargo to Mars. The Starship rocket is being tested at SpaceX’s growing facilities near Brownsville, Texas. The test version of Starship is shorter than the final version will be. Musk has said the test version is for low altitude “hop” flights (known as VTOL, or Vertical Take Off and Landing), which will not reach orbit.
A member of the online forum NASA Spaceflight shared an image of Tuesday night’s apparent accident, showing the rocket’s nosecone crumpled on the ground.
Whoops. Starship Hopper nosecone has been blown over in high winds.
NSF’s BocaChicaGal https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=47120.msg1904371#msg1904371 …
Musk followed up in a later tweet by saying that the “actual tanks” – the more complex base of the rocket – “are fine.”
Starship is being built out of a very light stainless steel, rather than carbon fiber. Musk said in a recent interview with Popular Mechanics that building with stainless steel because it is cheap and fast, while also being strong enough to endure the intense temperature changes and pressure of flying through the Earth’s atmosphere.
It’s “very easy to work with steel,” Musk said. That benefit accelerates SpaceX’s development schedule for Starship, he added.