Image credit: SpaceX
Image credit: SpaceX
SpaceX’s Starship rocket prototype SN10 exploded eight minutes after a successful test flight, belly flop and landing. The SN10 is the third prototype to explode after launch.
Viewers around the globe held their breath as the rocket landing, seemingly without a hitch. As it turns out, however, the third time wasn’t a charm. Here’s what you need to know.
The test was initially aborted at the last second when pre-set standards around the rocket’s thrust triggered a shutdown. According to Musk, the thrust limit would be increased.
According to SpaceX engineer John Insprucker, the purpose of the test is to gather data about how the Starship prototype’s flaps would control the craft as it descends from its target altitude.
“Similar to the high-altitude flight tests of Starship SN8 and SN9, SN10 will be powered through ascent by three Raptor engines, each shutting down in sequence prior to the vehicle reaching apogee — approximately 10 km in altitude.”
The SN10 prototype performed a high-altitude test flight and manoeuvred into a successful upright landing at the Boca Chica SpaceX plant in Texas on Wednesday, 3 March 2021.
The Space commentator described it as a “beautiful soft landing” as an automated fire-suppression system extinguished flames burning at the base of the rocket.
Everything seemed until control until eight minutes later when it all went sideways. The rocket went out in a column of flames and lurched into the air before crashing back to the ground.
SpaceX has yet to confirm what went wrong.
SN10 was the third Starship to go up in flames, preceded by the SN8 in December 2020 and SN9 in February 2021. The rocket is being developed by SpaceX to carry people and cargo on future missions to the Moon and Mars.
The first Starship version, known as Starhopper, was retired back in 2019 after completing its second and final untethered flight. Starhopper had only a single Raptor, which took the craft about 150 metres in the air before landing safely.
Once the final design of Starship is complete, Musk will be one step closer to sending humans to the Moon and to Mars. Musk said in the past that he is planning to send a crewed mission to the moon by 2023.