SpaceX loses yet another Starship prototype in mid-air explosion
Just weeks after the SpaceX Starship Serial Number 10 (SN10) rocket met a fiery demise after a seemingly successful landing, the Starship SN11 exploded in mid-air yesterday. The SpaceX on-board video feed stopped five minutes and 49 seconds after lift-off. Independent footage of the SN11 flight recorded a massive boom and showed debris raining down around the test site.
Notably, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk acknowledged that the SN11 had been lost, tweeting that "at least the crater is in the right place!". He said that Engine 2 seemed to develop a problem during ascent and didn't reach operating chamber pressure during the landing burn. He added that in theory, it wasn't needed. Musk noted that "something significant happened shortly after landing burn start."
At least the crater is in the right place!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 30, 2021
Clear visuals of the SN11's disintegration are unavailable as the launch site in Boca Chica, Texas was covered in a blanket of fog yesterday. The SN11 is the fourth high-altitude test flight prototype launched since early-December. The high-altitude prototypes intended to reach an altitude of ten kilometers, but none have landed successfully and survived to tell the tale.
Even the SpaceX webcast relied on the rocket's on-board cameras for visuals. These cameras froze and stopped relaying video before the explosion. SpaceX's principal integration engineer John Insprucker said that the team doesn't seem to have lost all the data from the SN11 flight. In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it will oversee SpaceX's investigation into the "prototype mishap".
So far, no injuries or damage to public property have been reported from the area where SN11's debris (pictured) rained down. An FAA spokesperson reportedly said that the body will approve SpaceX's investigation report and suggest corrective action before return to flight is authorized. Nevertheless, Musk remains hopeful that Starship will become the default mode of conveyance between the Earth, the moon, and Mars.