SpaceX Starship SN9 prototype explodes on landing again: Here’s all you need to know

The Starship rocket needs to master its landing as this is the second time that it has exploded with the first time happening last year, in December.

A prototype of SpaceX's Starship rocket lifted off well for a test flight on 2 February and reached its target of 10 km but ended up exploding during landing. According to reports, serial number 9 (SN9) prototype failed to slow down or even get vertical while descending. This led to SN9 touching down hard at the landing site, erupting into a huge explosion thereafter. The prototype rocket had been launched from SpaceX’s South Texas site, which is located on the Gulf Coast near the Boca Chica Village, reported The lift-off had taken place at 3.25 pm EST or 1.55 am IST and the rocket was seemingly having a successful test flight as it managed to perform a ‘complex horizontal flip’ during its reentry into the planet’s atmosphere.

SpaceX's Starship SN9 prototype rocket explodes after launch test. Image credit: Youtube/SpaceX

SpaceX's Starship SN9 prototype rocket explodes after launch test. Image credit: Youtube/SpaceX

The landing remained to be mastered by the prototype, a similarity SN9 shared with its predecessor, the SN8 prototype which had also exploded into a fireball in December. SpaceX principal integration engineer John Insprucker also noted that they have got to work on the landing aspect a bit more in the webcast of the SpaceX launch on Tuesday. He maintained that it was only the second time Starship vehicle was being flown “in this configuration” and its flight, reaching the target and even reorientation “looked very good and stable”.

According to the company, SN9 was boosted by three Raptor engines, which would help in the rocket’s ascent to its goal of 10 km altitude. The three engines were supposed to shut down in sequence prior to the vehicle reaching the zenith. After this, the prototype was expected to perform a “propellant transition to the internal header tanks” before reorienting itself for the reentry.

The prototype was supposed to have a controlled aerodynamic descent with the help of two forward and two aft flaps on its body. SN9’s Raptor engines were then supposed to reignite just before landing to ensure a smooth finish to the launch.

SpaceX head Elon Musk who is usually quick to comment upon successes as well as failures did not say anything about the prototype. This could be related to the Twitter hiatus he had written about on Tuesday.

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