SpaceX Starship lands upright, then explodes in latest test

Lawrence Kim
Марта 4, 2021

It appears the damage incurred during the landing was too much for bear for the spacecraft, however, causing it to explode on the pad some minutes after coming down to rest.

In this image from a video made available by SpaceX, one of the company's Starship prototypes fires its thrusters as it lands during a test in Boca Chica, Texas, on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. SpaceX CEO and Founder Elon Musk estimated a roughly 60% chance of a successful landing this time - which means the probability is likely a little higher than that, knowing Musk's tendency to underestimate imminent launches. Two previous test flights crash-landed in fireballs.

The hard part lies in successfully reigniting at least two of the three Raptor engines as the vessel nears the ground - to decelerate enough for a controlled, soft landing.

When Starship approaches the pad, it uses two engines to return to an upright position and then a single engine for a landing burn, bringing it to a gentle touchdown.

Musk and the FAA have clashed in the past: SpaceX launched its first high-altitude Starship flight, that of the SN8 prototype, without FAA approval, which triggered an investigation. SpaceX changed the procedure on this landing attempt, igniting all three and then shutting down two as needed for the landing.

That appeared to work.

"A attractive soft landing", a SpaceX commentator said on the live broadcast of the test flight, although flames were coming out at the bottom and crews were trying to put them out.

Unfortunately for hopeful SpaceX fans worldwide, the rocket aborted the launch seconds after the countdown to liftoff ended. Then about 10 minutes later, an explosion thrust SN10 back into the air, leaving it in pieces. Neither SpaceX nor Musk immediately commented on the explosion, but webcasts showed hoses spraying water at the base of the vehicle in the minutes before the explosion.

Insprucker noted the next prototype, SN11, is "ready to roll out to the pad in the very near future". "One day, the true measure of success will be that Starship flights are commonplace". In September 2018, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa said he had purchased a flight of the vehicle, then known as BFR, for a circumlunar trip in 2023. But on Tuesday, he announced the opening of a competition for eight "everyday people" to apply for a free ride on Starship with him - on a mission around the moon that will see humans go farther from low-Earth orbit than any before. A livestream for the event is now active and can be found over on the NASA Space Flight YouTube channel.

Musk wants to construct a fleet of reusable Starships to power round-the-world hypersonic travel on Earth, fly astronauts to the moon, and one day carry people to Mars.

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