If the Super Heavy booster explodes, fully loaded, how strong would the blast yield be?

How far would the shock wave reach?

How does this compare to the N1 RUD's and to other non-nuclear explosions?

Please assume the current specifications. If not enough information is available, please keep this question open at least until Sep 28, 2019.

  • $\begingroup$ This might help you out when we find more details about internal volume of the super heavy's tank: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/9780470925287.app2 $\endgroup$ Sep 20, 2019 at 20:43
  • $\begingroup$ For example. The launch of the N-1 rocket (mass 2,750 t, SuperHeavy - 5,000 t ) took place on July 3, 1969 and ended in a grand accident. Explosions of fuel in tanks was equivalent to an explosion of approximately 500 tons of TNT. As a result, the starting position was destroyed and all nearby ground structures were destroyed, the blast wave knocked out glass in buildings 6 km from the start. The debris of the carrier and launching facilities scattered in a radius of about 1 km. This was one of the largest artificial non-nuclear explosions in human history. $\endgroup$
    – A. Rumlin
    Sep 21, 2019 at 5:12
  • $\begingroup$ There may be some useful information in Rocket explosion compared to kT of TNT; has one ever knocked something over at a distance? and answers there $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Feb 25, 2020 at 10:06
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The rocket explosions are usually far less violent than equivalent amount of explosives, as fuel and oxidizer are not pre-mixed, and the initial fireball in the area where they do mix quite efficiently blows the remainders of both apart, preventing further mixing and more massive explosion. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Feb 25, 2020 at 10:58

2 Answers 2


How strong would the blast yield be? Probably not very. Rocket explosions usually consist of an initial small blast that blows the fuel in one direction and the oxidizer in the other. The fuel ignites, but since it's not mixed with the oxidizer, it burns at the interface between the fuel and the surrounding air, and doesn't generate much of a shock wave.

How strong could it be? A worst-case scenario would probably be something such as an overpressure incident causing the fuel and oxidizer tanks to rupture on the ground before launch, giving them time to mix before igniting. Based on the numbers in the current Wikipedia article, complete combustion of the fuel in the Super Heavy would release around 39 TJ of energy, or roughly equivalent to 9 kilotons of TNT.


To augment @Mark's excellent answer let's remember Elon Musks tweet

yes. This seems instant from a human perspective, but it really a fast fire, not an explosion. Dragon would have been fine.

I can't find a perfect one-liner to quote, but something like An explosive charge is a measured quantity of explosive material, which may either be composed solely of one ingredient or be a mixture containing at least two substances. helps to suggest that they'd have to be a mixture before ignition before what comes next can be called an explosion proper.

For further reading and specific references to "fast fire" see also 1, 2, 3, 4

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