SpiceX’s Starship spacecraft maneuvers in the air – and explodes on the ground

Tonight, at 00:45 (Israel time), the Spice X company conducted a “hop” type test (jump) on a prototype of the Starship spacecraft – which will one day carry settlers to Mars . The purpose of the experiment was to take off at an altitude of 12.5 km in the air, perform a number of aerial maneuvers including a “belly flop”, and then land safely near the launch – as the final Starship spacecraft lands. It ends in an amazing explosion.

Failures on the road to success

The gleaming 50-foot-long (like a 16-story building) took off from the SpaceX launch site near Boca Chica, Texas. The Starship SN8 – that is, Starship Serial Number 8, since it is a prototype only – successfully passed all stages of takeoff and maneuvering, except for the last one: the pressure in the front fuel tank was low during the landing combustion, and the spacecraft hit the ground too quickly. The result was a spectacular fireball. Elon Musk, CEO of the colorful Spice X, was quick to announce on Twitter: “Mars – here we come!”.

Since the final Straschip spacecraft will be carrying astronauts in the flesh, these sights may be unpleasant. But keep in mind that this is a preliminary experiment, designed to test the systems, gather information and improve planning. In fact, when asked about it on Twitter before the experiment, Musk gave the SN8 a 1 in 3 chance of landing in one piece. The reason for Musk’s joy is probably because he knows that the road to success requires some setbacks along the way, just as happened until SpiceX was able to produce reusable launchers. 

The SN8 is (or rather was) the most advanced and complete of the Straship test spacecraft. The previous models, the Starhofer, SN5 and SN6, took off to a height of only 150 meters – and had only skeletons, with one raptor engine. The SN8 is the first to include three state-of-the-art raptor engines, as well as a bow and wings for stabilization.

One million passengers to Mars by 2050

SpiceX develops the starship in order to carry people and cargo to the moon and Mars. When completed, the launch system will rise to a height of 120 meters, almost like a peace tower, and will be the largest and most powerful ever built. The Starship will consist of a spacecraft called Starship made of stainless steel and boasting six raptor engines, and a super-heavy launcher, in which 30 such engines will be installed. Both the spacecraft and the launcher will be reusable, meaning they will take off and land in one piece, with the goal of settling Mars in a million inhabitants by 2050.

In the near future, Musk believes the full starship will be ready in time to land NASA astronauts on the moon by 2024 as part of the Artemis program – and launch a first manned mission to Mars by 2026. 

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