SpaceX’s Starship SN11 prototype took off successfully on Tuesday, March 30 against a backdrop of Texan haze. Unfortunately, it exploded before hitting the ground. Engineers have indeed activated the FTS, a safety device supposed to destroy a rocket in a controlled manner in the event of a problem during the flight.
While the successful landing of the SN10 and its explosion a few minutes later are still remembered, SpaceX has moved forward with its new prototype. On March 22, the company was already performing the second static ignition test of its SN11. During this maneuver, engineers noticed a problem with one of the three Raptor engines. The latter therefore had to be removed for repair.
For the rest, SpaceX tried and passed a new static test this Friday, March 26. A test flight was finally expected this Tuesday in Boca Chica, while the mist still enveloped the pad.
As expected, the Starship took off. Like its predecessors, the SN11 was powered by three of the Raptor engines. He also flew away about ten kilometers above sea level before “falling face down” towards Earth, only to turn around before landing.
Unfortunately, the prototype exploded before hitting the ground. Engineers activated the FTS, a safety device capable of destroying a rocket in a controlled manner in the event of a problem during flight.
For now, the reasons for this maneuver have not been communicated, but there could be a re-ignition problem with one of the vehicle’s Raptor engines, which could have changed its trajectory. In a tweet, Elon Musk notably mentioned a problem with the No.2 engine.
Looks like Engine 2 had some issues on the climb and didn’t reach operating chamber pressure on landing, but in theory it wasn’t necessary.
Something significant happened shortly after the landing burn began. Should know what that was once we can review the bits later today.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 30, 2021
Another lead: according to photographer Trevor Mahlmann, present for this launch (a few kilometers away anyway), the vehicle was also turning more quickly around its axis than during previous flights. If so, there could have been a problem with the turning maneuver.
Of course, none of this is confirmed. News will soon be shared by SpaceX to explain precisely the reasons for this explosion.
Once again, we must not view this new attempt as a failure. Let it be said: what SpaceX is trying to do is unprecedented and incredibly difficult.
Finally, remember that SpaceX has already reached an agreement with the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa for a scheduled flight around the Moon in 2023, even as the company continues to refine the design of its ship (the Super Heavy booster, has not even started its tests yet). As part of this mission, called “dearMoon”, eight other seats will be distributed to the general public.