Following an aborted test earlier in the week, Starship serial number 8 (SN8) lifted off from the SpaceX launchpad in Cameron County, Texas, in the wee hours of Thursday morning.
While the launch was somewhat delayed, the countdown to launch eventually started and Starship SN8 launched.
The spacecraft was in the air for just over six minutes before it performed its landing flip manoeuvre in order to reach its landing spot. During the test SpaceX conducted a propellant transition as well.
After six and a half minutes things took a turn for the worse.
While Starship SN8 successfully flipped, it’s velocity was immense and the vessel hit the ground hard enough to explode.
“Low pressure in the fuel header tank during the landing burn led to high touchdown velocity resulting in a hard (and exciting!) landing,” SpaceX wrote in an update.
We suppose that “exciting” is one way to describe your rocket meeting its demise.
That doesn’t mean the test was a failure though. During the stream of the test, SpaceX said that the success of the mission (taking off, switching propellant, flipping and landing) was not dependent on a complete mission. The goal was to acquire data which will inform the next test, something SpaceX chief executive officer Elon Musk highlighted on Twitter.
Fuel header tank pressure was low during landing burn, causing touchdown velocity to be high & RUD, but we got all the data we needed! Congrats SpaceX team hell yeah!!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 9, 2020
As for what comes next, well, Starship serial number 9 is currently under construction and according to a report from Forbes, it’s likely that SpaceX will conduct another test soon.
Starship will ultimately be used to ferry satellites to orbit en masse and ultimately take humans throughout our Solar system.
Onward to the next test then.
We’ve embedded the footage from the flight test below. For those who don’t want to watch the entire stream skip to 1:47:41 or click this link.