Elon Musk shares why SpaceX Starship SN10 exploded soon after acing the landing

Elon Musk shares why SpaceX Starship SN10 exploded soon after acing the landing

Last week, on March 3, SpaceX launched Starship SN10 on a high-altitude flight test at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. The stainless-steel test vehicle soared 10-kilometers into the sky propelled by three methane-fueled Raptor engines. The engines shutdown in sequence to perform an aerodynamic descent controlled by its four flaps, “SN10 performed a propellant transition to the internal header tanks, which hold landing propellant, before reorienting itself for reentry and a controlled aerodynamic descent,” the company said. “All four flaps were actuated by an onboard flight computer to control Starship’s attitude during flight and enabled a precise landing at the intended location. SN10’s Raptor engines reignited as the vehicle performed the landing flip maneuver immediately before successfully touching down on the landing pad!”

Starship SN10 became the first prototype to ace the landing, however, the vehicle exploded minutes after successfully touching down. The founder of SpaceX Elon Musk shared that the SN10 vehicle exploded because the “engine was low on thrust due (probably) to partial helium ingestion from fuel header tank. Impact of 10m/s crushed legs & part of skirt. Multiple fixes in work for SN11,” Musk wrote on Tuesday via Twitter. In response to his tweet, a NASASpaceflight reporter said –“This is a tricky one given that I believe said helium pressurization was added to the CH4 [methane] header tank to mitigate what happened with SN8. That's why it's a test program, of course.” To which Musk responded –“Fair point. If autogenous pressurization had been used, CH4 bubbles would most likely have reverted to liquid. Helium in header was used to prevent ullage collapse from slosh, which happened in prior flight. My fault for approving. Sounded good at the time,” he wrote.

The spacecraft is still in its initial phase of development, so, explosions are expected. “[…] These test flights are all about improving our understanding and development of a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo on long-duration interplanetary flights, and help humanity return to the Moon, and travel to Mars and beyond,” the company stated. Meanwhile, the next test vehicle – Starship SN11 – was transported to the launch pad from the assembly facility down the road this week. SN11 is expected to undergo preflight testing in the days ahead to prepare it for a high-altitude flight test this month. According to Cameron County Boca Chica Beach closure announcements, SpaceX could perform testing as soon as Thursday, March 11 from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Central Time (CT). A back-up test opportunity ia also scheduled for Friday, March 12, from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. CT. You can watch SpaceX operations Live 24/7 in the video below, courtesy of LabPadre via YouTube. 




Featured Image Source: SpaceX 

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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