In December, SpaceX tested its prototype for a next generation rocket in the skies above Texas in the United States. Though the launch was successful, the landing was less so. The Starship rocket dubbed the SN8, failed to stick the landing and blew up while attempting to perform a “belly flop” manoeuvre.
Though SpaceX lost the rocket, the test was till considered a success, thanks to the amount of data collected during the launch. Musk himself was quoted as saying they had a 1:3 chance to stick the landing, so most likely they were expecting the landing to be less than ideal.
Following some tension between the Federal Aviation Administration (who approve launches) and SpaceX, the company was given the green light for another test run featuring a new Starship prototype called the SN9. The 16-storey tall rocket took off from SpaceX’s Texas test facilities under clear skies and reached an altitude of 6.2 miles (10km). The rocket’s three primary engines were then cut off, letting it free fall to earth, tilted to one side. The test was meant to stress the new aerodynamic flaps that would have helped the rocket land vertically.
Unfortunately, the rocket slammed into the ground and blew up. Things were not all doom and gloom though as the SpaceX researchers met with a lot of the test objectives, and they got a lot of good data out of it. The primary objective was to test the control of the rocket during re-entry and that looked to be good.
The FAA has opened an investigation into the SN9 explosion. “Although this was an uncrewed test flight, the investigation will identify the root cause of today’s mishap and possible opportunities to further enhance safety as the program develops,” The FAA said in a statement issued to the press.