January 20, 2021

SpaceX’s Starship prototype makes its first flight before crash landing and exploding

2 min read

SpaceX conducted the first test flight for its Starship prototype launch vehicle early this month. The space vehicle made an eventful takeoff from the launchpad but came down explosively after trying to land for some minutes. The prototype left SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas at about 6 p.m. This test flight was the first in which the SN8 vehicle was attempting to cover the highest altitude for this vehicle line. The vehicle was to cover 12.5 kilometers before coming down with a vertical landing projection to settle in the launch location. The prototype lifted through the Texas sky to a certain altitude that SpaceX did not reveal to test the potential of the space vehicle. 

Engineers recorded a shut down of one Raptor engine in less than two minutes of takeoff. The second of the three engines stopped after 3 minutes of ascension. The final engine halted at 4 minutes and 40 seconds of takeoff, switching the vehicle’s direction back to where it was coming from in a horizontal projectile with the fins directing the descend. In 6 minutes and 32 seconds, the prototype fired up, bringing the vehicle into a vertical orientation to landing. The prototype was moving at a supersonic speed that its landing was explosive. 

The explosion wrecked and fired up the entire prototype leaving a chunk of the nose cone. Nevertheless, SpaceX stated that the flight was successful, with the engineers noted that they had obtained the test results they were looking for in this mission. SpaceX’s chief executive, Elon Musk, tweeted that the mission was successful, although the landing velocity wrecked the entire prototype. He explained that they had recorded the data they were looking for to hope to adjust the actual development to prevent future troubles. The CEO congratulated the engineers who made this mission successful. Musk was uncertain that the SN8 prototype would take off the ground. He stated that he was expecting 1/3 of the mission objectives to go as planned. The previous trial for this prototype had witnessed the prototype liftoff for less than two seconds. 

The SN8 Starship prototype is among SpaceX developments that are testing the reusability of newly developed launch systems. The previous models did not go as far as this prototype making it the first breakthrough model in its line. Last year four prototypes went down due to pressurization problems and a failed static-fire test. These failures have forced the company to channel resources into the program, which finally yielded results with this model. Musk is hopeful that the missions for this line of space vehicles can proceed now that they have obtained the test results for developing the systems with suitable technology. 

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