SpaceX Starship Explodes On Landing In Latest Test Of Mars-Bound Spacecraft
The latest test of the SpaceX Starship didn’t quite go to plan, as the craft crashed and exploded upon landing.
I can’t imagine that’s quite what Elon Musk had in mind for when he takes people to Mars for the first time.
The incident took place yesterday, February 1, when the Starship SN9 prototype left the Earth from SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas.
See the rocket go up in flames below:
The rocket reached a height of roughly 10km in what was only the second major high-altitude flight of a Starship craft, during which it managed to achieve both lift-off and a controlled descent.
In spite of its good performance, the prototype failed to stick the landing, which involved performing a complex flip manoeuvre. The rocket has large fins at the nose and tail to help maintain orientation as it returns to Earth, but it failed to right itself properly and ended up crashing on the landing pad.
The rocket proceeded to burst into flames, bringing the test flight to an end after six-and-a-half minutes.
Commenting on the scene, SpaceX launch commentator John Insprucker said, ‘We’ve just got to work on that landing a little bit. Reminder – this is a test flight.’
The crash comes two months after the previous Starship test flight, which achieved a slightly higher altitude but ended in an equally explosive crash-landing.
In a post on the SpaceX website, the company emphasised both the importance and difficulty of achieving a safe landing for the craft.
A controlled aerodynamic descent with body flaps and vertical landing capability, combined with in-space refilling, are critical to landing Starship at destinations across the solar system where prepared surfaces or runways do not exist, and returning to Earth.
This capability will enable 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.
SpaceX initially planned to test SN9 last week, but the company was forced to delay as it failed to get the necessary approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.
A spokesperson cited by The Guardian explained that SpaceX did not comply with safety regulations for the previous December 9 flight and so needed to take corrective action before proceeding with the testing of SN9. Tuesday’s flight met all safety criteria, according to the FAA.
CEO Musk hopes to use the Starship to ferry people to Mars in as little as a few years.
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CreditsThe Guardian and 2 others