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SpaceX: the 8th Starship prototype due to go to Mars explodes on landing during a test

Starship SN8 explosion

SpaceX conducted Wednesday, December 9, 2020 (Paris) an altitude test and the ailerons of its 8th Starship rocket prototype which should eventually take humans to Mars. The test was generally a success but insufficient pressure in one of the tanks caused a somewhat hard landing, causing a huge explosion

Starship SN8 explosion
Credit: SpaceX

The Starship SN8’s altitude and aileron test was highly anticipated by the SpaceX fan community in recent months. The aim of the test was to simultaneously reach a new altitude stop, while testing the approach adopted by the company for the controlled landing of the vehicle. De facto SpaceX is only testing the upper stage of the rocket here, which is already huge.

This floor, more than 52 meters high, will be the place of life for the first astronauts who will have the chance to take humanity to Mars. To develop it, SpaceX boss Elon Musk decided to start from a blank sheet, with the latest technologies available, and various innovations, such as the use of steel rather than composite materials for the rocket body.

The 8th Starship prototype victim of an “unplanned rapid dismantling”

But the development of this rocket also goes hand in hand with an industrial process as intense as it is innovative. Because for Elon Musk it’s not just about designing a rocket, but also the industrial process which will make it possible to build a series of them per week. For now, the project is nevertheless only at the stage of its first tests. With it must be said a lot of explosions – which are in reality opportunities for Elon Musk to refine the design of the device and make it always safer.

After two “frog jumps” demonstrating the feasibility of a device such as Starship, the 8th prototype was therefore called to fly at an altitude of almost 15 km, before landing in a controlled manner. In the end, overall, SpaceX got the data it wanted. By managing to fly Starship SN8 at 12.5 km altitude, and landing it in a controlled manner. Except that the landing ended in a huge explosion (see video at the end of the article).

The explanation was quick to arrive, as Elon Musk quickly tweeted: “The upper fuel tank pressure was low during ignition of the engines for landing, which resulted in a fairly high landing speed and an ‘unplanned quick teardown’, but we have all the data we have need! ”. Because of its innovative production methods, SpaceX already has a replacement vehicle (codename SN9) to conduct tests.

Also read: Tesla Cybertruck – final version will be more solid than expected, thanks to SpaceX

And several others are already under construction – each inheriting lessons from past failures and data collected. Ultimately, Starship will be the largest rocket ever launched by man with a height of 120 meters. It can carry up to 100 tonnes.

Source: The Guardian