SpaceX has conducted multiple high-altitude Starship flight tests at Starbase, located in Boca Chica Beach, Texas. Engineers are in the process of developing the spacecraft with the goal of creating a fully reusable launch vehicle capable of long-duration voyages to Mars with one hundred passengers aboard. The four stainless-steel prototypes that performed 10-kilometer flight tests had explosive endings. The Starship SN8 and Starship SN9 prototypes performed incredible flight tests powered by a trio of methane-fueled Raptor engines; both followed a nominal flight sequence up until failing to land after a landing-flip-maneuver. Starship SN10 was the first prototype to successfully land after an amazing aerodynamic flight but approximately eight minutes after touchdown, the vehicle exploded.
Then, Starship SN11 took off under dense fog, its flight sequence was not clear. The vehicle maybe exploded mid-flight before attempting to land. “Looks like engine 2 had issues on ascent and didn’t reach operating chamber pressure during landing burn, but, in theory, it wasn’t needed,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk said about SN11’s launch, “Something significant happened shortly after landing burn start. Should know what it was once we can examine the bits later.” The company has not released more information about why the vehicle set itself to flames. SpaceX staff has been cleaning Starship SN11’s explosion debris at Boca Chica Beach for the past week. The pieces of the vehicle could offer engineers more insight about what happened under the dense fog. Cameron County published a SpaceX ‘Debris Hotline' contact information on its website for Boca Chica village residents who encounter any piece, they can either E-mail SpaceX at email@example.com or call 1-866-623-0234. Source: https://www.cameroncounty.us/spacex/
Squishy Raptor #2 pic.twitter.com/J0K7hRAFp1— Coop (@Cooper_Hime) April 3, 2021
Each flight test provided the company with enough data that Musk plans to fast-forward Starship’s development. He shared the company will rollout Starship SN15 to the Starbase launch pad soon, skipping Starship SN12 through SN14. “SN15 rolls to launch pad in a few days. It has hundreds of design improvements across structures, avionics/software & engine,” he said on March 30. “Hopefully, one of those improvements covers this problem. If not, then retrofit will add a few more days.”
SN15 rolls to launch pad in a few days. It has hundreds of design improvements across structures, avionics/software & engine.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 30, 2021
Hopefully, one of those improvements covers this problem. If not, then retrofit will add a few more days.
The company’s decision to skip ahead to Starship SN15 suggests they are confident to iterate the design rapidly. SN15 finished assembly this week (pictured above) and could be rolled out of the rocket factory to the launch pad as soon as Monday, April 5, according to a Cameron County Boca Chica beach road closure announcement. It states the road could be blocked anytime from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Central Time - “Hwy 4 traffic, near Boca Chica Beach, may be intermittently delayed,” a county representative wrote (date is subject to change). Once at the launch pad, SN15 will undergo a series of tests before taking flight. Musk has said on several occasions that rapid innovation is needed to make life multiplanetary within our lifespan. SpaceX targets to land the first uncrewed Starship with cargo on the Martian surface by 2024. The first crewed voyage aboard Starship will be around the Moon is ambitiously scheduled for 2023. You can watch SpaceX Starship Launch Site operations Live 24/7 in the video below, courtesy of LabPadre via YouTube.
WATCH IT LIVE!
Featured Image Source: SpaceX
About the Author
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.