The latest Starship prototype from SpaceX, SN11, was launched after a 24-hour delay, only to explode on landing, ultimately causing another setback for the company’s goal of making fast internet easily accessible to remote areas across the globe.
The delay was not the first as the company hoped to conduct the test flight after changing out one of the craft’s three Raptor engines. Consequently, the test was postponed to Monday and eventually took place early Tuesday morning, when the Starship SN11 rocket blasted off from SpaceX’s Starbase test site in South Texas.
SN11 soared to an altitude of 6.2 miles, which is approximately 10 kilometers, before it began the landing procedure. However, nearly six minutes into the flight, the cameras of SpaceX lost communication with the rocket. “Looks like we’ve had another exciting test of Starship Number 11,” John Insprucker, launch commentator for SpaceX, said during the broadcast. “Starship 11 is not coming back, do not wait for the landing.”
According to CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk, “something appeared to go wrong with one of SN11’s Raptor engines, called engine 2. But that may not be why the rocket crashed.”
“Looks like engine 2 had issues on ascent & didn’t reach operating chamber pressure during landing burn, but in theory, it wasn’t needed,” Musk wrote on Twitter. “Something significant happened shortly after landing burn start. Should know what it was once we can examine the bits later today.”
SN11 seems to have followed the footsteps of its predecessors, failing to survive its brief flight to eventual explode during the test amid foggy conditions in Boca Chica.
The flight was SpaceX’s second flight test of a Starship rocket in March and was initially planned for Monday afternoon. However, the flight had to be pushed back due to the failure of an inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to make it to Boca Chica in time for the launch.
The latest launch license issued on March 12 now requires an inspector to be on site for all Starship launches. According to the license, any test flight can take place “only when an FAA Safety Inspector is present at SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch and landing site.”
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