On its third test flight, a SpaceX Starship missile lands … and then explodes

Never two without three? That was the question everyone asked, Wednesday, March 3, about the third test flight of altitude for the Starship, the upper stage of the future heavy launch pad being developed by US company SpaceX: the first two flights – December 9, 2020 And the February 2 It ended with the failure of the landing and the explosion of the missile on the ground. On the occasion of this new test, engineers made adjustments to the last stage of the flight and Elon Musk estimated the chances of success at 60%.

Somehow, the head of SpaceX wasn’t really wrong. The prototype SN-10 (serial number 10) already managed to land on the base of Boca Chica (Texas), slightly skewed but in one piece. A fire broke out under the missile and the fire hoses were on for a few moments. The fire appeared to be under control, but after a few minutes of landing, a violent explosion pushed the spacecraft several tens of meters above the Earth’s surface. The device has been destroyed.

Even if it was necessary to repeat it twice for takeoff (the first countdown was interrupted 0.1 seconds before the end), the flight was carried out in a “symbolic” manner to resume the flight. An adjective used in space, which means that everything is going as planned. During its ascent stage, the spacecraft’s three Raptor engines ejected one after the other and the rocket, at its peak, performed the amazing swing maneuver that defines it, from vertical to horizontal. Thanks to the plates fitted to it, the steel drum with a diameter of 50 meters then slopes down, “prone”.

Destruction is part of the game

Unlike the first two tests in which the engines were re-ignited in the last second or so, the Raptors got to work sooner. This gave the missile time to straighten (with three engines), to stabilize (with two engines), and finally to complete its landing (with one engine). While this longest maneuver landed the spacecraft nearly upright, it was not sufficient to prevent its destruction.

It prevents. SpaceX has never hidden the risks it has taken in its missile tests and considers that it learns from its failures: Destruction is part of the game in some way. This third test, which will be considered almost a failure, represents progress compared to the previous two. And SN-11, assembled almost entirely in Boca Chica, awaits its turn …

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Stan Shaw

<p class="sign">"Professional food nerd. Internet scholar. Typical bacon buff. Passionate creator."</p>

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