We now know why SpaceX’s newest Starship prototype went up in flames final week.
The stainless steel automobile, generally known as SN11 (“Serial No. 11”), launched on a take a look at flight final Tuesday (March 30) from SpaceX’s South Texas services, close to the Gulf Coast village of Boca Chica.
SN11 soared to a most altitude of 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) as deliberate, and the 165-foot-tall (50 meters) craft checked numerous bins on the way in which down as effectively. However SN11 did not stick its touchdown, as a substitute exploding in a large fireball — due to a plumbing drawback, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk introduced at present (April 5).
Video: Watch SpaceX’s Starship SN11 launch on a take a look at flight
“Ascent section, transition to horizontal & management throughout free fall had been good. A (comparatively) small CH4 leak led to fireside on engine 2 & fried a part of avionics, inflicting laborious begin making an attempt touchdown burn in CH4 turbopump. That is getting mounted 6 methods to Sunday,” Musk said via Twitter today.
CH4 is methane, the propellant for SpaceX’s highly effective, next-generation Raptor engine. And a “laborious begin” refers to ignition when there’s an excessive amount of gasoline within the combustion chamber and the stress is due to this fact too excessive — not an excellent factor for any engine.
SpaceX is growing Starship to take folks and cargo to the moon, Mars and different distant locations. The transportation system consists of two parts, each of which will probably be totally reusable: the Starship spacecraft and an enormous first-stage booster referred to as Tremendous Heavy.
Each Starship and Tremendous Heavy will probably be powered by Raptors — six for the ultimate Starship and about 30 for the massive booster, Musk has mentioned. SN11 sported three Raptors, as did every of its three predecessors, SN8, SN9 and SN10, which launched on 6-mile-high take a look at flights in December, February and early March, respectively.
All 4 flights had been broadly comparable, with the prototypes performing effectively till the very finish. SN10 even landed in a single piece, in reality, however exploded about eight minutes later.
SpaceX will maintain making an attempt to get the touchdown proper. The corporate has already constructed the subsequent Starship prototype, generally known as SN15, and it ought to take to the skies quickly. (Sure, SpaceX goes instantly from SN11 to SN15.)
Mike Wall is the writer of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a e-book concerning the seek for alien life. Comply with him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Comply with us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Fb.