SpaceX has conducted another test with Starship, its prototype spacecraft, which will be used for travel between Earth and other planets or satellites in the Solar System. The shuttle is already scheduled to fly around the Moon in two years, but the space company is still testing some basic systems, such as landing. The third test, Starship SN10, was the first to be successful, with the shuttle successfully landing back on Earth. Unfortunately, it did not “survive” the test.
This was the third attempt to land with a Starship shuttle
The new SpaceX test took place last night and involved the launch of a new Starship at 10,000 meters, from where it went into free fall. For the best possible efficiency, Starship enters free fall horizontally, and before landing it makes a 90-degree rotation maneuver, to land in a vertical position, just as it takes off. However, this maneuver requires a lot of power from the reactors, and this seems to have been the problem in this test.
Indeed, the landing was considered a success, with the shuttle landing vertically in the area where it was to land. However, the power of the reactors was so great that they caused a fire at the bottom of the rocket. The runway was equipped with automatic fire extinguishers, but they did not cope with the flames. Just eight minutes after landing, the Starship SN10 exploded.
However, the mission is considered a success, as previous tests with the SN8 and SN9 shuttles resulted in violent crashes just before landing. They failed to straighten the shuttle’s position vertically, or failed to slow down enough to land successfully.
The images broadcast live by SpaceX with the Starship SN10 test are impressive, but do not include the subsequent explosion. However, there is an alternative footage that shows the moment when the flames under the shuttle resulted in an explosion.
SpaceX plans to continue Starship testing throughout the year.