So Close and Yet So Far–Another Starship RUD, But It Did Land

So Close and Yet So Far–Another Starship RUD, But It Did Land

At first it seemed SpaceX proved the adage that the third time is the charm. Today’s third attempt to launch a Starship prototype to 10 kilometers and land it safely back on Earth appeared to work, but several minutes after landing, it exploded, the same fate as its two predecessors.  Still, it was a step forward in Elon Musk’s development of a system to take people to the Moon and Mars.

Today was the third attempt to launch a Starship prototype, in this case Serial Number 10 (SN10), and return it to a safe landing at SpaceX’s Boca Chica, TX test range.  SN8 and SN9 had successful flights until the landing. Both experienced a RUD — Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly — otherwise known as an explosion.

Hopes were high for SN10. Early in the launch window an abort one second before liftoff initially seemed to seal the fate of today’s attempt, but SpaceX was able to reset the system for another attempt just after 6:00 pm ET.

As with SN8 and SN9, launch and flight went perfectly with the three-engine vehicle ascending to 10 kilometers, turning to a horizontal attitude for descent, then flipping back to vertical for landing.  SN8 landed too hard. One of the two SN9 landing engines failed.

SpaceX had only two of three Raptor engines activated for the SN9 landing, so when one failed, the result was catastrophic. Musk acknowledged they were “dumb” not to have all three firing.

They fixed that and today all three were live. SN10 landed successfully.

At first.

As captured by (not a NASA website) and its reporter Jack Beyer, the vehicle landed, but was listing a bit. Suddenly, it exploded.

Starship’s Raptor engines use methane as a fuel and speculation is that residual methane caused the explosion.

SpaceX typically is undeterred by such failures. It already has SN11 ready to go once they determine what went wrong this time.

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