Elon Musk explains cause of SpaceX Starship SN8 issue during latest test

Elon Musk explains cause of SpaceX Starship SN8 issue during latest test

Featured Image Source: @LabPadre via Twitter & YouTube

Over the past couple of months, SpaceX teams at the South Texas Launch Facility located in Boca Chica Beach have been working on preparing the next Starship prototype for a higher altitude test flight. SpaceX is working towards creating a gigantic reusable spacecraft capable of transporting one hundred passengers on voyages to the Moon and Mars. Developing such ambitious spacecraft comes with challenges. Engineers are building multiple prototypes to test out. Starship SN8 (Serial No. 8) is a prototype that teams have been preparing for weeks, to launch it on a 15-kilometer test flight above Boca Chica's sandy beach.

Starship SN8 is the first test vehicle that features a trio of methane fueled Raptor engines and aerodynamic fins that SpaceX plans to test for the first time in-flight. While preparing the SN8 vehicle for flight, engineers encountered a Raptor engine issue during a static-fire test, which is a pre-flight preparation to ensure all engines work well and assess is the stainless-steel craft can withstand the engine's powerful thrust. SN8's Raptors were ignited for the third time on November 12 during a static-fire test in which the engines were quickly ignited for a few seconds as the vehicle remained grounded to the Boca Chica Launchpad. That day, teams experienced some issues --"We lost vehicle pneumatics. Reason unknown at present. Liquid oxygen header tank pressure is rising. Hopefully triggers burst disk to relieve pressure, otherwise it’s going to pop the cork," the founder of SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk shared after the test, "Maybe melted an engine preburner or fuel hot gas manifold. Whatever it is caused pneumatics loss. We need to design out this problem," he said in a follow-up comment. Later, Musk shared the burst disk worked as intended and Starship SN8 did not burst. --"Burst disk worked, so vehicle appears to be ok. We’ll have to swap out at least one of the engines," he said. Teams later removed Starship Raptor(s) to assess and fix the damage, "Just a scratch. We can buff it out," Musk joked.

This week, Musk further elaborated on what caused Starship SN8 engine issue. --"About 2 secs after starting engines, martyte covering concrete below shattered, sending blades of hardened rock into engine bay. One rock blade severed avionics cable, causing bad shutdown of Raptor," Musk explained via Twitter. Adding that teams will now work on --"Avionics cables moving to steel pipe shields & adding water-cooled steel pipes to test pad," he wrote.

Musk hosts an annual SpaceX presentation to discuss the company's Starship development progress and future plans. On Tuesday Musk suggested the presentation has been delayed because he is contemplating making "notable changes" to the Starship launch system, "Maybe making some notable changes. Will wait until figurative & literal dust settles," he said. Meanwhile, multiple Starship prototypes are under assembly at Boca Chica. Starship SN9 almost looks like a complete spaceship as teams continue to assemble it inside a High Bay. We could soon see two fully-assembled vehicles featuring a nosecone with aerodynamic flaps. Starship SN10, SN11, and SN12 are under an early phase of assembly as well. Musk says that in order to innovate quickly SpaceX must iterate quickly; manufacturing many prototypes enables the company to speed up Starship's development. You can watch SpaceX Live operations 24/7 in the video below, courtesy of LabPadre via YouTube.



About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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