On March 3rd 2021 SpaceX launched and landed their prototype test vehicle Starship SN-10 but was destroyed in an explosion and fire on the landing pad at Boca Chica Texas just after 5 PM CST.
Earlier in the day during the first launch attempt the rocket ignited it’s three Raptor test engines and automatically aborted the launch due to a SpaceX ultra conservative thrust parameter. SpaceX made changes to the software detanked the rocket refueled and launched in just over two hours from the first abort.
The liftoff of SN10 performed a magical slow motion assent up to 10 kilometers hovered for minutes in a vertical position to the west of the complex and performed the signature belly flop manuever to head back to the freshly thickened and painted landing pad.
On the decent SN10 reignited two of the three Raptor engines to maneuver from horizontal back to vertical. It tilted to the west and then adjusted to the east before becoming vertical for landing. It appears the landing legs deployed but did not hold the rocket up. It finally rested on it’s rear flaps leaning slightly with a large fire building under the rocket.
A prepositioned autonomous fire truck started spraying water at the base of the rocket but a suspected methane leak ignited minutes later and the rocket exploded launching back into the air and landing in a heap of rubble.
Elon Musk tweeted later R.I.P. SN10 Honorable Discharge
This is the first Starship out of three to land and over 90% of the liftoff, ascent, hover, belly flop, decent was extremely successful.
Terrific data was received by SpaceX during this test flight. Even though the end was shocking with the explosion the test flight was largely a great success for SpaceX.
SN11 is still in the high bay continuing the assembly process. The FAA will be looking at the test flight for a possible violation of its application to them. SpaceX will learn valuable data regarding the landing attempt and explosion.
The journey with future Starships to the Moon and Mars will continue.
Article and Photos by Scott Schilke for spacenews.lu and space-news.es