To ensure their rockets don’t break in space, NASA prepares for worst-case scenarios by testing—and sometimes even breaking—spaceship materials while they’re still Earthbound. In the above video, which was shared by The Verge, you can watch the space agency gauge the strength of a sturdy material made from graphite-epoxy, honeycomb-core composites.

Someday, the composite material might be used to create rockets and boosters. So far, it shows promise: It’s tough yet lightweight and less expensive than many other traditional materials. But to truly evaluate its mettle, NASA applied compressive loads of nearly 900,000 pounds to the top of an 8-foot composite barrel to see just how much pressure it could withstand. 

The barrel ended up shattering—and even though research engineers had predicted when it would break to within an accuracy of 1 percent, they were still caught off guard. "It’s always a bit surprising when such a sudden failure occurs," research engineer Marc Schultz said in a statement from NASA. "The loud bang first startled us, and then we saw the crack all the way around the barrel that formed almost instantaneously from the buckling event.”

In all, NASA performed seven rounds of these tests at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. 

[h/t The Verge]

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