SpaceX Starship Prototype Explodes Following Perfect Landing

SpaceX is running through Starship prototypes like they’re growing on trees. Just a few weeks after its last rocket exploded following a hard landing, the company succeeded in landing a Starship rocket after its test flight. Sadly, the vessel exploded several minutes later. SpaceX hasn’t talked about the cause of the incident, but it does seem to consider the SN10 flight an overall success despite what transpired after. 

All of SpaceX’s current launch operations are based on the Falcon 9, which is certified to carry even astronauts into space. It’s also the basis for the company’s Falcon Heavy launch platform. Elon Musk’s future plans require something a bit more powerful, which is the Starship. This megarocket will have enough power to send large payloads to Mars, an essential tool in Musk’s plan to colonize the red planet. 

First, the Starship has to show it can lift off and land like the Falcon 9. This is essential to SpaceX’s plans for reusability. The latest test features SN10, the tenth piece of Starship prototype hardware. The goal was to reach an altitude of about six miles (10 kilometers) before dropping back down for a soft (non-explosive) landing. 

At first, everything went perfectly. The Rocket completed its “flip sequence” when the rocket ignites its engines and rotates to point them downward. In the last test, the rocket overcompensated and crashed into the ground. This time, the maneuver went off without a hitch. There’s even an amazing telephoto shot of the vessel from below as it swung around (see above).

It was several minutes later when the vessel suddenly detonated. The source of the blast appeared to be from the bottom of the rocket where the three Raptor engines are. The force launched SN10 back into the air briefly, but there didn’t look to be a secondary explosion when the craft fell back to Earth. So, SpaceX engineers might still be able to learn something from the wreckage. 

While SpaceX would no doubt have preferred SN10 didn’t blow up, its Starship testing is still moving in the right direction. Each one does a little better, and the company says that SN11 is already under construction. After working out the kinks in the Starship, SpaceX still has to get the Heavy Lift first stage operational. This will be necessary for long-range missions like going to Mars and the Moon.

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