On Tuesday morning March 30th SpaceX lifted off its Starship SN11 prototype from its build site in Boca Chica, Texas on a 10km hop amid heavy fog with no real visibility.
It lit up its three Raptor engines and soared to an altitude of about 10 kilometers. Onboard cameras showed SN11 flapping its flaps above the cloud bank, with a blue sky background, momentarily before beginning its descent. SpaceX cameras froze up as the Raptors began to reignite for landing, and with the fog on the ground, it’s not clear exactly what happened, except that SN11 definitely exploded.
SpaceX commentator John Insprucker referred to it as “another exciting” test. “We do appear to have lost all data from the vehicle,” he said. A later statement from SpaceX confirmed that after the landing burn started, “SN11 experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly,” adding that “teams will continue to review data from and work toward our next flight test.”
Musk tweeted after the test that “at least the crater is in the right place!”
” Looks like engine 2 had issues on ascent & didn’t reach operating chamber pressure during landing burn, but, in theory, it wasn’t needed. Something significant happened shortly after landing burn start. Should know what it was once we can examine the bits later today” he added.
The Federal Aviation Administration will oversee a mishap investigation into the explosive landing attempt. The agency will also be looking into pieces of soft debris (possibly insulation from SN11) that fell on beaches up to 8 kms away.
The first two prototypes, SN8 and SN9, ended in dramatic explosions as they hit the pad at speed. The follow-up, SN10, made a soft landing at the Boca Chica facility on March 3, but about six minutes after it came to a stop it underwent a “rapid unscheduled disassembly” an explosion of epic proportions. According to Musk, the speed with which SN10 hit the pad crushed its landing legs and part of the skirt. And so, farewell.
Musk also slated that “SN15 rolls to launch pad in a few days. It has hundreds of design improvements across structures, avionics/software & engine”
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