Picture courtesy: Trevor Mahlmann
Fourth time’s the charm, or is it? SpaceX and Elon Musk launched yet another of their Starship prototypes, and yet again the test resulted in fireworks.
After a 24-hour delay, the SN11 prototype took off from SpaceX’s test facility in Texas amid blinding fog that made it impossible for cameras on the ground to track its progress. It reached an altitude of almost 10 kilometers as planned, and as everyone held their breath to see whether this test is the one, the SN11 proceeded to shut off its Raptor engines to prepare for the descent. The belly-flop maneuver was also executed gracefully, but at 5:49, the camera froze, and the viewers realized that the inevitable had happened. You can see for yourself in the SpaceX livestream posted on YouTube below.
“Looks like we’ve had another exciting test of Starship Number 11,” John Insprucker, launch commentator for SpaceX, said. “Starship 11 is not coming back, do not wait for the landing.”
The SN11 did come back to the ground, but definitely not in one piece. At the moment, the exact cause of the explosion hasn’t been announced, although Elon Musk said in a tweet that there was a problem with engine number 2 of the Starship.
SpaceX is currently testing its new Starship rockets slated to replace the existing Falcon rockets employed by both NASA and the U.S military. The Starships are bigger and better than any other rocket developed by SpaceX and will be able to carry out many kinds of heavy-duty missions such as long-duration flights to outer space and even missions to Mars. Fortunately, SpaceX’s manufacturing process allows them to rebuild Starships within 2 or 3 weeks, and the next one should be ready for testing soon. It is expected that it’ll be named the SN15 as SpaceX skips ahead to a more advanced version.