July 24, 2021

An Explanation of the SpaceX Starship Prototype’s, SN11, Crash

2 min read

SpaceX figured out why its test flight of the Starship SN11 prototype was not a success. It is in the public domain that the test turned into a crash results in the prototype going up in flames not long ago.

In an announcement by Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO, on 5th April, he took the liberty to describe the test launch. As far as the maximum altitude is concerned, everything went as par the expectation since the vehicle reached the right height. It soared up to 10 kilometers, equivalent to 6.2 miles which was the planned altitude. The descent was also nothing different from the expectations. However, the landing was far from it, resulting in a massive fireball following an explosion. According to Elon Musk, that couldn’t have happened were it not for a plumbing issue.

In the tweet, he pointed out how the ascent phase was a success. Transitioning to horizontal and control during its free fall went well too. However, a minor CH4 leak led to a fire outbreak emanating from engine 2. Consequently, the avionics’ part fried hence the hard start ignition attempt. As a result, the landing burned in CH4 turbopump. Fortunately, the team has up to 6 ways of fixing the matter, and it will happen as soon as possible.

The test launches are part of SpaceX’s mission of coming up with a Starship that would facilitate cargo transportation and human beings to distant destinations such as the moon and Mars. One of its key goals is reusability. Therefore, its transportation system will use Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy first-stage booster, reusable. Their power source will be Raptors, and while the final Starship will use 6, the booster will use 30 of them.

Before the SN11, there have been launches in March, February, and December for SN10, SN9, and SN8. All of them have some similarities, including being powered by three Raptors. The test flights were also up to a height of 6 miles. Equally important, everything went as planned except for the landing. However, one must point out that SN10 landed well to explode around eight minutes after the landing.

SpaceX doesn’t plan to give up until it gets it right, which they believe will happen eventually. One would wonder why they were already preparing for yet another test flight, given that the SN15 Starship prototype has already been build. Were they ready for the fail or was it just a precautionary endeavor? Either way, its launch will be happening anytime soon. It is interesting how SpaceX has omitted SN12, SN13, and SN14 to launch SN15. Regardless, it is probably a non-issue hence not worth explaining.

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