Original note on PC Mag
Last week, Spacex successfully landed his missile Spaceship reusable after completing a high-altitude flight test, but then exploded. Now we know a little more about why it happened.
Like the SN8 and SN9 siblings that came before, this version was powered by three motors, each of which cut out in turn before peaking at about six miles of altitude. The vehicle worked as expected, reoriented itself for re-entry and landed for a precise landing at the intended location.
- See also: VIDEO: Very Cyberpunk! A robot dog inspects the remains of the SpaceX space rocket
“Starship SN10 landed in one piece,” tweeted the SpaceX CEO. Elon MuskAt that moment, when you almost wished something went wrong, it would almost go wrong. Ten minutes later something happened. Several reports suggested that a massive fire at the base of the vehicle sent it on a second spontaneous journey to heaven.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Musk, in response to photos of staff testing the Starship SN11’s landing legs prior to its next flight test, revealed that the SN10’s engine “had little thrust (likely) due to ingestion. Partial helium from the fuel head tank”.
The SN10 engine had little thrust (likely) due to the partial uptake of helium from the fuel rail. Impact of bruised legs and part of the skirt at 10 m / s. Several fixes for SN11 in progress.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 9, 2021
He also confirmed that the uptake of helium was likely the result of a pressurization system added to the CH4 head tank to correct an earlier bug in the SN8 model. “My fault for passing it,” wrote Musk. “It sounded good back then.”
That’s the problem with landing on a hard surface like SpaceX’s launch pad, Boca Chica. “It could end up in a big net or a bouncy castle,” Musk suggested in a later post. “It lacks dignity, but it would work.” “Several fixes” are in the works for Starship SN11, which was recently released on the Texas launch pad and could be ready for launch next week.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) completed investigations into two SpaceX Starship tests last month, including the failed landings of two high altitude test flights. In early December, SpaceX successfully launched its Starship rocket, which landed back on Earth. Two months later, the company shipped the SN9 miles over the Texas facility and completed another successful flight demonstration that again ended with a fiery explosion of prototype parts.
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