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Tue, Apr 06, 2021

SpaceX Starship SN11 Blowup Explained

Engine Failure Explained... Paving Way For Starship SN15

On Tuesday, March 30, SpaceX launched its fourth high-altitude flight test of Starship from Starbase in Texas. Similar to previous high-altitude flight tests, Starship Serial Number 11 (SN11) was powered through ascent by three Raptor engines, each shutting down in sequence prior to the vehicle reaching apogee – approximately 10 km in altitude.

SN11 performed a propellant transition to the internal header tanks, which hold landing propellant, before reorienting itself for reentry and a controlled aerodynamic descent.

Shortly after the landing burn started, SN11 experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly. Now we know why... because Elon, with his characteristic transparency, told us. "Ascent phase, transition to horizontal & control during free fall were good. A (relatively) small CH4 leak led to fire on engine 2 & fried part of avionics, causing hard start attempting landing burn in CH4 turbopump. This is getting fixed 6 ways to Sunday."

The next Starship to be flight tested will actually be SN15... which reportedly utilizes "hundreds' of upgrades and improvements, and is expected to be an altogether different beat... and possibly one to be the first to complete a full test cycle (which SN10 ALMOST did.... blowing up several minutes after it landed). SN15 is expected to roll to the launch pad as early as later this week.

Regardless; SpaceX teams 'will continue to review data and work toward our next flight test.'

The company notes that, "Test flights are all about improving our understanding and development of a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo on long-duration interplanetary flights, and help humanity return to the Moon, and travel to Mars and beyond."

FMI: www.spacex.com

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