Bengaluru, NFAPost: SpaceX Starship prototype ‘SN10’ has just completed its High-Altitude Flight Test that was live-streamed just a few hours ago. The tenth iteration of the heavy-lift spacecraft reportedly took off from Boca Chica, Texas where SpaceX has built Starship’s development base.
SpaceX Starship Prototype SN10 – Flight Test Performance
As TechCrunch reports, the prototype reached an altitude of 32,000 feet, before flipping its course for a friction-aided landing descent. The new Starship prototype seems to have improved in its flight performance from the previous two iterations (SN8 and SN9).
Although SN10’s rocket module did not blow up into a fireball during its six-minute flight path, it eventually did burst out into flames while stationary on the landing pad after completing a successful landing.
It is now ascertained that the fireball incident at the landing pad, could be the result of a potential leak as the spacecraft performed its final flip maneuver to complete a soft touchdown.
SpaceX team has acknowledged that it has made rapid progress in the development cycle of the Starship prototype, despite minor technical setbacks with its rocket module leading to unexpected and sub-optimal outcomes.
Starship Prototype SN10 – Probable Causes of Unexpected Fireball Explosion
There are a couple of unusual parameters that might hypothetically support the cause for these unexpected events with the rocket module. The Starship prototypes are being tested out in the open as the Boca Chica facility barely boasts of a couple of tiny buildings, a few storage tanks and some concrete landing pads.
With the landing pad itself in close proximity to a public roadway, the entire flight event could be witnessed by the general public from the other side of the barbed fencing. It may be noted that legacy rocket builders have never adopted such open-air landing setups in history.
SpaceX has been predominantly creating Starship prototypes in incremental stages by making subtle yet ground-breaking improvements with each iteration. This is the second key attribute that may be contributing to these minor technical hiccups leading to unexpected events.
In other words, instead of quality testing the entire unit in lengthy test cycles, SpaceX’s Starship prototypes seem to be testing each iteration at the modular level to make necessary adjustments in small increments.
SpaceX Fixes Initial Glitches with SN10 Rocket Module
Earlier in the day, a brief engine fire had stalled the flight test as the rocket module’s high thrust-readings exceeded the conservative values proposed by SpaceX Founder and CEO, Elon Musk. SpaceX team had then fixed the glitch by adjusting the limit a tad higher to avoid a possible abort initiation.
Nevertheless, the company is likely to investigate the cause of this unexpected fireball explosion, following a successful flight test and landing maneuver.
The future iterations of Starship prototype could possibly see some improvements with higher achievable altitudes on these flight tests as the eventual goal is to reach the orbital space in the atmosphere, before making the final trip.