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Starship SN8 Mounts to Highest Altitude Yet, Only to Land in a Kiss of Flame

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SpaceX’s burning desire to colonize Mars burned down Starship Prototype SN8 with it. A nerve-racking fly test was conducted Wednesday, December 9th. Find out what elements were tested and the reasons behind the unfortunate crash.

SN8 High-altitude Test Breakdown

After a series of trial rescheduling, Starship SN8’s eagerly awaited fly test finally took place at 4:45p.m. CST in Boca Chica, Texas testing facility.

The silver uncrewed rocket successfully ascended for almost seven minutes performing a subtle ‘belly-flop’ maneuver. Its dramatic flip from horizontal to vertical left us amazed.

Aerodynamic control was precise, allowing it to land on point yet failing to stick the landing.

SpaceX has not clarified whether the rocket had reached an altitude of 41,000 ft (12,500m) as they had intended but we do know this is the highest altitude reached by Starship.

The Crash Explained

Low pressure in the fuel header tank during the landing burn hindered the Raptor engines from slowing it down. Touchdown velocity was high, leading to a perplexed ending.

What Elements Were Put to the Test?

This suborbital flight put a number of elements on trial, ‘from how the vehicle’s three Raptor engines perform and the overall aerodynamic entry capabilities of the vehicle, including its body flaps, to how the vehicle manages propellant transition,” SpaceX.

Landing flip maneuver was assayed as well. This was a first for a vehicle of that size, 236ft (72m) to be exact. The company considered these testings as a new milestone and were satisfied with their findings saying ‘We got all the data we needed’.

Is the Crash Considered A Failure?

Despite the prototype landing in a blaze, it is not deemed unreliable. SpaceX CEO had previously predicted a 1/3 chance of the test completing all objectives.

Success of these tests is measured by how much insight and new information reveals itself rather than completion of certain objectives.

New finding means rapid advances and improvement in development of Starship, which is meant to ferry people and cargo to the Moon and Mars.Indeed, Musk is far from being impeded and even lauded the ascent phase a success.

While discussing SN8 in a Starship program presentation last year, Musk said ‘It’ll look totally nuts to see that thing land.’ Vital data conducted from Wednesday’s trial to be employed in the upcoming tests starting with SN9, which is ready to roll. 

Do you think SN9’s trials will be as nuts as the current one was?


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