SpaceX today carried out a test flight at an altitude of 10 kilometers using the prototype of the Starship SN11, which ended earlier than planned with the spacecraft exploding.
There is no official information, at the moment, of what happened during the test, but it is possible that the spacecraft could destroy itself after a serious malfunction in one of its three Raptor engines, two of which must be restarted after the free fall stage. For landing maneuver.
SpaceX The flight is broadcast liveBut the picture froze at the moment of the explosion. Channels An astronaut every day And NASA space flightWith their private cameras on the ground, they captured the explosion and subsequent debris. Some pieces fell near the SpaceX launch pad in Starbase, and others in the waters of Boca Chica Bay (Texas).
The Starship flew four times in total, but no prototype survived to tell the tale. The SN8 and SN9 exploded on landing, while the SN10 prototype managed to successfully land and detonate minutes later, damaging its legs from the high speed of the maneuver.
SpaceX learns a lot from these test flights. A spacecraft is a vehicle fundamentally different from the Falcon 9, from its manufacture (from stainless steel) to how it is designed, with specific aerodynamic properties to control a risky landing, which consists of horizontal free fall and maneuvering to the ground standing. The Raptor engines are also more powerful than Merlin’s Falcon 9, and use methane (CH4) instead of kerosene (RP-1) as fuel.
Update: Elon Musk has spoken about it. “The hole is at least in the right place,” he wrote on Twitter. The engine 2 appears to have encountered problems during ascent and the combustion chamber did not reach the operating pressure level during ignition for the landing, but in theory this was not necessary. Something important should happen after the ignition starts to descend. We should know what it was when we examine the pieces today. “