SpaceX’s Starship Booster May Have Exploded, Fan Theory and Alleged Leaked Image Suggests

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SpaceX’s Starship booster, the first in the program’s history to successfully splash down in water, reportedly exploded after the test, an alleged leaked image and fan analysis circulating on social media suggest. While SpaceX’s Starship tests are aimed at testing the rockets to the point of failure and making subsequent upgrades, the company has been criticized for the first three flights, which have frequently been described as failures due to their inability to prevent accidental explosions, or what SpaceX calls “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly.”

Now, a leaked image of the final moments of the booster on the fourth flight, combined with analysis by a social media user, suggests the booster may have exploded after falling over at the end of the return journey.

Leaked image of exploding Super Heavy spaceship is likely real, social media analysis suggests

SpaceX’s eager social media fans were in for a surprise yesterday when X user BocasBrain shared an image of what could only have been the Flight Four Super Heavy booster’s explosion. The image showed an orange mushroom cloud visible from a buoy similar to the one SpaceX used to capture the final footage of its rocket test.

Shortly after the image was shared, X user mcrs987, who goes by the name TheSpaceEngineer, performed a detailed analysis. Citing his knowledge of lighting and image editing, the user noted that, based on the distorted perspective and a square frame visible in the lower right, the image appeared to capture video footage being played back on a monitor. While they admitted that the distortion could also be due to the buoy’s dual-lens cameras, they added that the footage could also have been distorted by water droplets that were also “warped“images of the booster’s descent.

The user then shares that the light from the explosion spreads through the buoy’s signal light. According to them, “it would be quite a challenge to mix “to create the diffuse effect, and the creators of a potential fake image would”to such extreme lengths would just be absolute dedication just to fool a bunch of people.” The next piece of evidence, which user mcrs987 admits could be evidence of a fake image, are the clouds above the mushroom cloud. These appear to match up perfectly with SpaceX’s images of the booster landing and explosion.very visible reflection and glow on the clouds“is” isridiculously difficult to replicate on an already existing image“, the analysis said.

A comparison with previous SpaceX Starship explosions also shows that the color of the fireball in the alleged leaked image is quite similar. These details, combined with an FAA report of a previous Starship test, lead mcrs87 to conclude that the Super Heavy’s downcomer likely failed after it crashed into the water. The downcomer, a pipe that runs through the tanks to transport fuel to the engines, is a notoriously finicky component, and a Starship booster was also damaged in 2022 after it failed during the test.

Details of infrasound data from the booster that LabPadre shared on X also show increased activity after the landing burn was turned off. This was the last “a piece of evidence that could put the final nail in the coffin” which mcrs87 was waiting for. The X user seems convinced that the latest dataset confirms the suspicion that the booster exploded when it tilted after landing, since the infrasound data ” contains[t]echoes and a peak louder than what the landing fire or the sonic booms of the vehicle immediately upon start-up might be.”

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