An significant landmark for SpaceX, looking at a lunar excursion with Starship in 2023.
Starship SN10, SpaceX’s third prototype undergoing a high-altitude test flight after two unsuccessful attempts with SN8 and SN9, became the first rocket to return it to the earth in one piece. There was a fire on the touchdown, though, and about eight minutes later the rocket detonated on the landing pad.
Boca Chica, Texas, and the world (via live stream) saw the debut of SpaceX’s SN10 (Serial No 10) prototype on Wednesday as it climbed 10km into the atmosphere with the strong thrust of its three Raptor engines.
Unlike the SN8 and SN9 rockets that exploded during their landing process, the SN10 was much more directed and even managed to make it back in one piece. However, the dust surrounding the rocket showed a subtly inclined Starship with a minor fire at its foundation, suggesting that any damage had been done during the landing.
Skip to the 5:40 mark to see the takeoff and 11:40 for Starship’s amazing flip landing manoeuvre.
It wasn’t until eight minutes later that the 50m-tall SN10 stainless steel rocket exploded and burst into flames, allegedly after a leak in its propellent tank. The video was filmed by NASASpaceflight cameras, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk called it a “honourable discharge.”
Oof. SN10 has decided to join SN8 and SN9.
Still a great advancement with the landing.
— Chris B – NSF (@NASASpaceflight) March 3, 2021
With the SN10 now in bits and SpaceX receiving useful experience from these experiments, things are likely to go much smoother-from start to finish-for the eight tourists who will join Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa for the first civilian lunar flight scheduled in 2023.