SpaceX Starship high altitude- 40,000 feet, Test flight ends in a fiery explosion!

SpaceX is finally close to performing a high-altitude test flight for a prototype of its Starship vehicle, after yesterday’s attempt was scrubbed by an auto-abort from its Raptor engines. The company is ready to try again today, and came within a couple of minutes of launching earlier before pausing the countdown and restarting.
SpaceX is one step closer to replacing its Falcon line of active duty spacecraft: It’s Starship prototype ‘SN8’ achieved a major milestone in the ongoing spacecraft’s development program, flying to a height of around 40,000 feet at SpaceX’s development facility in southern Texas. One of the Starship’s three Raptor engines cut off around 2 minutes into flight, but the prototype rocket continued its ascent. Then at around three minutes, another extinguished, leaving just one lit and firing. The rocket continued to climb, oriented upward, but it was hard to tell from the feed exactly how high it reached. The third flared out at around 4:30, and the Starship oriented into a horizontal position, angling back towards Earth but effectively flat on its belly, gliding. SpaceX’s Starship looks like it was ripped straight from the pages of a pulp science fiction novel. Its gleaming, bullet-shaped silver hull is a patchwork of stainless steel plates.
Two triangular fins protrude from its lower half, with two smaller fins near its tip. Starship is huge—15 stories from engine to nose cone—but it is only the upper stage of a still larger rocket called the Super Heavy. This booster is a scaled-up version of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and will come equipped with three times as many engines. When SpaceX mates a Falcon Super Heavy booster and Starship, the entire ensemble will stand nearly 400 feet tall. It will be just a few feet taller than NASA’s Saturn V rocket that carried humans to the moon, which remains the largest and most powerful rocket that has ever flown to space.
This unusual reentry is all about aerodynamics. By executing a belly flop, Starship can more accurately control its landing using its fins. But this type of landing maneuver is also unprecedented, which means that it carries a lot of risk until SpaceX gets a better idea of how Starship reacts while it’s returning to earth.
Now the SpaceX live stream says it’s targeting a launch time of 5:40 PM ET, and if everything goes well then we will see Starship SN8 fly to an altitude of 12.5 km (41,000 feet) and attempt a record-setting “landing flip maneuver” on its way back to the base in Boca Chica, TX. For a more detailed way to follow the action, the enthusiasts at NASA Spaceflight also have a live feed that broadcasts from multiple angles with live commentary.
The Starship’s engines re-ignited as the rocket approached the ground, flipping the rocket into a vertical orientation once again and slowing its descent. It landed a bit harder than expected, however, resulting in an explosion that engulfed the rocket. That’s still a successful test, and went better than SpaceX or most observers likely expected it would.
The good news, is that the team got “all the data we needed” and it appears everything is in order for future
tests. Those already carry improvements compared to SN8 which flew today, and the team will be quick to implement additional tweaks based on this flight and the data they obtained during the test.

6 thoughts on “SpaceX Starship high altitude- 40,000 feet, Test flight ends in a fiery explosion!

  1. Biovolt Technologies is one of the few responsible news sites, others sites use the headline “Starship Explodes!” This flight was for the most part a success. SpaceX will learn so much from the data for SN9.


  2. Check it out, a news site that doesn’t sell itself out to catchy negative headlines and gives the actual news. Great work Biovolt Technologies, every other publication, pay attention please. This is the journalism people want.


  3. Everyone saying it’s too slow down is half right. That is one part of it. Since it needs to land upright they have to do the belly flop maneuver.Why they are in that position in the first place isn’t just to use the atmosphere to slow down. It’s also so they can “glide” to the landing pad. It gives them a bigger area they can deorbit from and thusly not be as restricted to a specific orbital plane.So even though it’s a complicated maneuver it does simplify and make other aspects of the flight easier.


  4. Better comparison: The NASA Space Launch System, or SLS. Those rockets are $2B per launch (if they ever do launch) for a similar sized rocket. That test rocket that just exploded was probably under $5m.SpaceX could test and explode hundreds of them before getting anywhere near the cost of a single launch of the SLS. And with each test, they get closer to having a working rocket.


  5. @Amy Yes and no. Yes it cost a lot of money, but SpaceX’s goal wasn’t reliant on this being a perfect test. NASA will spend 25 years building a single rocket and when they finally launch it everything has to work perfectly otherwise billions of dollars have been wasted.
    SpaceX starts with simpler, cheap, full scale versions that can be thrown away and then they destructively test those until they’ve worked out the kinks along every segment of the flight profile. Then after all that real world testing is done they add all the fancy stuff that keeps people alive or accomplishes a “big” mission.
    Their approach has already made their Falcon 9 system the cheapest ride to space, and Starship will be even more cost efficient. The old way of doing space relied on contracts that covered the cost of development plus a guaranteed profit – so Boeing or ULA never had to focus on how to do things efficiently. They could spend a decade running tests on some subcomponent before integrating it into the vehicle, they were never going to run it out money.
    SpaceX is mostly paying for Starship out of pocket, so they want to get to fully integrated system testing as quickly as possible because the real gremlins lurk in the complete end product…you could spend years successfully testing subcomponents only to find that when you integrate things the entire vehicle will never work.


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