SpaceX Starship SN11 test flight soars and explodes in fog
SpaceX Starship SN11 prototype joinsin rocket heaven on Tuesday. The unmanned flight of the next-generation rocket built by Elon Musk’s space company took off from the Starship development facility in Boca Chica, Texas at 8 a.m. local time in heavy fog without real visibility.
He ignited his three Raptor engines and climbed to an altitude of about 10 kilometers. Board cameras showed SN11 flapping its shutters above the cloud bank, with a blue sky background, momentarily before beginning its descent. SpaceX cameras froze when the Raptors began to relight for landing, and with the fog on the ground, it’s unclear exactly what happened except that SN11 definitely blew up.
SpaceX commentator John Insprucker called it “another exciting test.”
“It looks like we’ve lost all of the vehicle data,” he said.
A subsequent statement from SpaceX confirmed that after the start of the landing burn, “SN11 experienced a quick and unplanned teardown,” adding that “the teams will continue to review the data and work for our next test in flight”.
It is still unclear whether the SN11 crashed, exploded in mid-air, or perhaps the flight termination system was activated to destroy the vehicle before it hit the ground.
“At least the crater is in the right place,” Musk tweeted shortly after. “Something big happened shortly after the landing burn started. I should know what it was once we look at the pieces later today.”
The Federal Aviation Administration will oversee an accident investigation into the explosive landing attempt. The agency will also examine pieces of soft debris (possibly insulation from SN11) that fell on beaches up to five miles away.
“The FAA will approve the final incident investigation report and any corrective action SpaceX must take before re-flight is authorized,” the agency said in an emailed statement.
The first two prototypes, an explosion of epic proportions. According to Musk, the speed at which SN10 hit the cushion crushed its landing legs and part of the skirt. And so, goodbye., ended in dramatic explosions as they hit the pad at high speed. The follow-up, SN10, made a soft landing at the Boca Chica facility on March 3, but about six minutes after its shutdown suffered an “unscheduled quick teardown” –
The Starship is designed forand all the way to Mars, but there is a long way to go before these dreams come true.
The next batch of spacecraft are improved versions of current prototypes, starting with SN15. The Starship is only “half” of the vehicle that will also fly further into space. A prototype for the first booster it will be installed on, known as Super Heavy, is also under construction in Boca Chica.
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