SpaceX Starship explodes after landing

4 Mar 2021

SpaceX Starship launch. Image: SpaceX/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The uncrewed Starship rocket completed a successful test flight but exploded shortly after landing.

On Wednesday (3 March) SpaceX completed a high-altitude flight test of a Starship prototype in Texas.

The SN10 is the third prototype of the Starship, which is set to fly to Mars. Its previous iterations, SN8 and SN9, both exploded upon landing.

Similar to these tests, SN10 was powered through its launch by three Raptor engines, each shutting down in sequence prior to the vehicle reaching approximately 10km in altitude.

According to SpaceX, the uncrewed Starship descended under active aerodynamic control, accomplished by independent movement of two forward and two aft flaps on the vehicle.

“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,” the company said. “SN10’s Raptor engines reignited as the vehicle performed the landing flip manoeuvre immediately before successfully touching down on the landing pad!”

Once on the ground, the spacecraft exploded shortly after landing. However, the SpaceX team has deemed the flight test a success, given that the Starship did successfully land before the explosion.

“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,” SpaceX said.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has already purchased all the seats aboard a Starship spacecraft due to fly to the moon in 2023. This week, Maezawa announced that he is searching for eight members of the public to join him on the journey.

“I want people from all kinds of backgrounds to join. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. You want to help people and contribute to society. You want to take your creative activity to the next level. If any of this sounds familiar, please join me,” he said.

Starship high-altitude flight test. Image: SpaceX/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic