SpaceX has launched the current 10th test aircraft “SN10” on the heavy-duty reusable spacecraft “Starship” under development. The Starship SN10, which took off from SpaceX’s development facility in Bocachica, Texas, climbed to a height of about 10km and then repositioned by maneuvering for a frictional landing descent.
Unlike the last two Starship test aircraft that flew at this altitude, the flight of about 6 minutes did not end in a fireball. As intended, the SN10 completed the attitude change maneuver for landing, slowed down the fall speed and made a soft landing.
The rocket remained in a vertical position and remained intact (however, the rocket exploded a few minutes after landing while still on the landing pad, which could potentially be caused due to a leak).
This is a great result, and according to SpaceX’s live stream, it’s all “as planned.” But why did they come this far immediately after the last and two previous explosions?
It depends largely on the development method of this rocket. While every rocket development comes with unexpected events and unfavorable results, SpaceX’s work has some differences from the average spacecraft maker.
First of all, this development is open. Bocachica’s facilities are basically just a few small buildings, concrete pads, storage tanks and scaffolding. Very close to public roads (closed during testing and evacuating the surrounding area), people can come close by car and hold their cameras to capture what is happening there.
This is quite different from the usual practice of traditional rocket makers.
And second, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk isn’t afraid to pursue a development strategy where SpaceX will quickly build and test Starship prototypes. That’s right.
In other words, instead of pulling down once after each test, performing a long-term analysis for several months, and then making and flying a rocket with different specifications like a general rocket maker, SpaceX gradually It means that multiple prototypes with improvements are being manufactured and assembled at the same time.
On this day, the first launch attempt was interrupted after a short engine ignition. The rocket’s instrument showed a slightly higher thrust value, contrary to Mr. Musk’s “conservative”. On the other hand, the fix that SpaceX actually devised was to adjust the limit to a higher value in order to avoid stopping the test.
There is no doubt that we will investigate the cause of the explosion that occurred after the company successfully flew and landed. But at this stage of development, everything that matters most to SpaceX remains successful.
Starship’s next challenge will be to raise the altitude of the test flight even further. Of course, the ultimate goal is to reach orbit, but before that, SpaceX will try several launches that far exceed this test flight, while staying in the atmosphere.
I’m a science journalist and host of Cosmic Controversy (brucedorminey.podbean.com) as well as author of “Distant Wanderers: the Search for Planets Beyond the Solar System.” I primarily cover aerospace and astronomy. I’m a former Hong Kong bureau chief for Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine and former Paris-based technology correspondent for the Financial Times newspaper who has reported from six continents. A 1998 winner in the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Aerospace Journalist of the Year Awards (AJOYA), I’ve interviewed Nobel Prize winners and written about everything from potato blight to dark energy. Previously, I was a film and arts correspondent in New York and Europe, primarily for newspaper outlets like the International Herald Tribune, the Boston Globe and Canada’s Globe & Mail. Recently, I’ve contributed to Scientific American.com, Nature News, Physics World, and Yale Environment 360.com. I’m a current contributor to Astronomy and Sky & Telescope and a correspondent for Renewable Energy World. Twitter @bdorminey