The explosion happened a minute after a short test of the Raptor rocket engine.
The prototype Serial Number 4 vanished into a fireball at SpaceX's Boca Chica site in Texas Friday shortly the engine was ignited for a pressurized test.
SpaceX's Starship SN4 rocket prototype explodes on its test stand near Boca Chica, Texas on May 29, 2020.
SpaceX has lost all three of its previous Starship versions to similar mishaps. This was the fourth static fire test of this engine on this prototype, so it's unclear what went wrong vs. other static fire attempts.
Despite first appearing to be another successful test, just seconds later the prototype is engulfed in flames, completely destroying the rocket.
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SpaceX developed Crew Dragon under NASA's Commercial Crew Program, which, for the first time in the space agency's history, handed over much of the design, development and testing of new human-rated spacecraft to the private sector.
The launch is also meant to serve as a sort of litmus test for NASA's push to partner more extensively with the private sector.
The explosion isn't expected to have any impact on tomorrow's launch plans because the two rockets don't use the same technology.
Mission managers planned to make an earlier decision on weather hazards in a bid to avoid unnecessarily wearing out the crew with another suit-up and full day of launch preparations.
The mission, called 'Launch America, ' was set to take astronauts Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station.
The mission, called Demo-2, is now set to launch no earlier than Saturday (May 30) at 3:22 p.m. EDT (1922 GMT) from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. That rocket system has previously launched satellites and cargo to space successfully dozens of times, after years of development and testing.