SpaceX: Starship SN10 successfully lands in Texas
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SpaceX fans are desperate to see the Starship SN11 take to the skies, more so than any previous Starship prototype. SN11 has big boots to fill after the SN10 launched and landed at the company’s Boca Chica facility in South Texas earlier this month. And though the prototype rocket blew up just eight minutes after the touchdown, Elon Musk’s army of devout fans is convinced SN11 will be the first rocket to survive in one piece.
On Monday, March 15, SpaceX undertook one final dress rehearsal before SN11 can launch on its maiden voyage.
SpaceX is aiming to make the Starship orbital before the year is over if humans are going to reach Mars before the decade is out.
The SN11 began igniting its Raptor engines during a static fire test just before 5.30pm GMT (12.30pm CDT).
But the test was almost immediately scrubbed, even as flames and smoke appeared around the SN11’s base.
According to Teslarati’s Eric Ralph, the fire ignited something inside of the rocket as the flames did not die out for 30 to 40 seconds after the abort.
SpaceX has been haunted by a series of unfortunate static fire tests, beginning with the SN9 last month.
During a static fire test, the rocket ignites its engines at full throttle but remains firmly attached to the ground.
The SN9’s launch was delayed after a round of engine burns in a single day left the rocket in need of an engine swap.
At the time, SpaceX boss Elon Musk confirmed the news on Twitter, saying: “Two of the engines need slight repairs, so will be switched out.”
Another engine-related delay struck a month later after a static fire test of the SN10 prototype.
Once again, Mr Musk took to Twitter to tell his fans one of the Raptor engines was “suspect”.
Elon Musk discusses future of SpaceX's Starship system
The South African billionaire has so far been quiet about yesterday’s abort, suggesting fans should not expect a major delay.
This puts SpaceX in a good position to reattempt the static fire test on Wednesday.
And once that last hurdle is cleared, SN11 should be cleared for its first suborbital test flight.
SN11’s launch will mark only the fourth high-altitude flight of a Starship prototype.
The SN8 was the first rocket to launch from Boca Chica in December last year.
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After climbing to an altitude of more than seven miles (12.5km), the rocked plunged to the ground belly-side down.
SN8 then fire its engines just seconds before reaching the ground in a soft landing attempt.
Unfortunately, the rocket was blown to smithereens when it came crashing into the launch pad.
Starship SN9 attempted to pull off this manoeuvre after multiple delays on February 2 this year.
But this Starship prototype too erupted into a ball of flames when it failed to stick the landing.
Then on March 3, SpaceX fans worldwide cheered on the landing of the SN10 model.
But the jubilations were short-lived as the rocket exploded about eight minutes after landing.
The rocket landed on just one engine but hit the ground too hard and crushed its legs.
The hard touchdown likely caused a methane leak that ignited and blew up.
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