SpaceX Starship Prototype Explodes in Mid-Air During Test Flight, Debris Falls From Sky in Texas

By  //  March 30, 2021

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The cause of the explosion is under investigation by SpaceX

BOCA CHICA, TEXAS – The SpaceX team attempted a high-altitude flight test of Starship serial number 11 (SN11) – their fourth high-altitude flight test of a Starship prototype from Starbase in Texas.

Unfortunately, during landing descent, the Starship exploded as it approached landing on the pad. Debris could be visible falling from the cloudy sky in Boca Chica, Texas.

Under a successful test, similar to previous high-altitude flight tests of Starship, SN11 will be powered through ascent by three Raptor engines, each shutting down in sequence prior to the vehicle reaching apogee – approximately 10 km in altitude. SN11 will perform a propellant transition to the internal header tanks, which hold landing propellant, before reorienting itself for reentry and a controlled aerodynamic descent.

The Starship prototype will descend under active aerodynamic control, accomplished by independent movement of two forward and two aft flaps on the vehicle. All four flaps are actuated by an onboard flight computer to control Starship’s attitude during flight and enable precise landing at the intended location. SN11’s Raptor engines will then reignite as the vehicle attempts a landing flip maneuver immediately before touching down on the landing pad adjacent to the launch mount.

A controlled aerodynamic descent with body flaps and vertical landing capability, combined with in-space refilling, are critical to landing Starship at destinations across the solar system where prepared surfaces or runways do not exist, and returning to Earth. This capability will enable 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.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation by the SpaceX team. No one was injured as a result of the explosion